via Past The Wire
Saratoga Race Course Notes
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – CJ Thoroughbreds’ Sugar Hi impressed with a six-length romp in Race 2 on Opening Day at Saratoga, a 5 1/2-furlong main-track sprint for juvenile fillies.
The victory provided a little déjà vu for CJ Johnsen, Vice President of CJ Thoroughbreds, who sent out Half a Chance to win the first baby race of last year’s Saratoga meet – a 5 1/2-furlong sprint that featured third-place finisher Chocolate Gelato, who went on to win the Grade 1 Frizette two starts later.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and piloted by Junior Alvarado, Sugar Hi attended the pace set by Lady Moscato from second position and put a head in front at the stretch call before edging clear of her seven rivals to stop the clock in a final time of 1:05.14.
“At the top of the stretch, I was definitely concerned because Joe Sharp’s horse [Honey Dijon] was breathing down our neck,” Johnsen said. “Once she went by, immediately I knew it was over with because she was just so professional with it. She didn’t lug in, lug out or look all over the place and get distracted. She knew her job. She waited for Junior to give her the cue and as soon as he did, she responded unbelievably.”
Sugar Hi is the first horse that CJ Thoroughbreds has sent to Mott and Johnsen credited the veteran trainer for having her ready to run.
“He’s such a great horseman,” Johnsen said. “She’s never done anything wrong and never taken a step backwards. He breezed her on June 20 and he parked her three lengths behind her workmate. He wanted her to take some dirt and make up ground. I got a video of it and she did it so easy.
“I was a little worried that she didn’t have a start in her,” added Johnsen. “Bill had wanted to get a race into her at Belmont because Saratoga is a different animal and you want to be physically prepared as well as mentally.”
The $180,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, by Twirling Candy, is out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Laughing Matters.
“She’s bred to go two turns,” Johnsen said. “She’s a Twirling Candy out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare and she’s from the family of Kitten’s Joy and Dreaming of Anna. There’s plenty of distance in that pedigree, so for her to have that natural speed and then go on with it [was impressive].”
Johnsen credited Marette Farrell with finding the filly at the sale.
“She was just so classy every time we pulled her out to look at her,” Johnsen said. “She has a great head on her. We were shocked we got her for $180,000 because we thought she was a queen the entire time and just needed some time to grow a little bit.”
Sugar Hi earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure for her maiden score, five points higher than the number earned by juvenile filly Becky’s Joker, who graduated later on the card in the Grade 3 Schuylerville.
Although the next stakes spot for 2-year-old fillies is the Grade 3, $200,000 Adirondack on August 6, it’s more likely that Thursday’s impressive maiden winners could square off in the seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on September 3.
“I’m looking forward to the future with this one and I haven’t felt this way about a horse in a long time,” Johnsen said. “She came out great and ate up this morning. Everything’s good, so we’ll give it a few more days and let Bill decide what’s next for her. The Adirondack is three weeks away and I don’t see Bill bringing her back that quick, but it’s his call. The Spinaway would be the logical thing. If she does well in her next start then we have to start working backwards from the [Breeders’ Cup] Juvenile Fillies.”
CJ Thoroughbreds will be represented by stakes-placed Hang the Moon in Saturday’s $150,000 Christiana, a nine-furlong turf test for sophomore fillies at Delaware Park.
Trained by Michael Stidham, the Uncle Mo bay won an optional claimer in her turf debut in January at Fair Grounds and closed to finish a close fourth in the LaCombe Memorial in March over the same course. Last out, she rallied from 10 lengths off the pace under Tyler Gaffalione to finish third in the one-mile Hilltop on May 19 at Pimlico won by the Chad Brown-trained Aspray over the Christophe Clement-conditioned Breath Away.
“She’s one of those ones that’s been slowly improving every single race,” Johnsen said. “I flew to Pimlico to watch her run and we were 20-1 running against Chad Brown and Clement. That was a really tough race. I was confident she’d run a good race and Tyler said after that she’s going to get better and better.”
The $200,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is out of the Malibu Moon mare Moondance, who is a full-sister to multiple graded-stakes placed Cue the Moon and multiple stakes-winner Red Hot Buddha.
Hang the Moon, listed as the 2-1 second choice, will exit the outermost post 6 under Daniel Centeno.
“It’s a mile and an eighth and she should relish that. We’re excited about tomorrow,” Johnsen said.