John Kimmel leaned forward in his seat in the front row of clubhouse boxes at Saratoga Race Course, eager to watch Crystalle run in Thursday’s $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes.
Kimmel hoped for a better outcome for the Palace Malice filly in her second start compared to her first, when she won before being disqualified and placed third for drifting in the stretch. Kimmel’s desire for a better finish evaporated before the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 2-year-old fillies even started.
“Watching her in the gate, she’s not standing square and the guy is trying to get her straightened out and I go ‘no, no, no’ and boom, he opens the latch and she misses the break,” Kimmel said.
Before the boom and before Crystalle spotted the field 2 lengths in the first 25 yards, the filly had turned sideways when her time came to walk into the gate. That necessitated a nudge on her left side from an assistant starter and a couple taps on right hindquarters from another. Crystalle threw her head up just as Sweet Melania took her spot in her outside slot and wrestled a little more with an assistant starter while he tried to straighten her out during a brief hold on the break.
Crystalle straightened just enough for head starter Mike “Pup” McMullen to hit the button to open the stalls, then tossed her head straight up and emerged from the gate with her momentum going right while the other six fillies went straight.
To read the rest of the P.G. Johnson recap, download Friday's digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.