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Plum Ali headlines today’s P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Trainer Christophe Clement will look to build on his successful meet when he saddles promising maiden winner Plum Ali in today’s 16th running of the $100,000 P.G. Johnson for juvenile fillies going 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Wonder Stables, Plum Ali made her career debut a winning one, with a last-out victory going two turns in a July 23 maiden special weight over the Mellon turf. The chestnut daughter of First Samurai was six lengths off the pace early on and made a four-wide bid to secure a two-length victory.

Plum Ali has breezed three times since her maiden win, recently posting a half-mile work on August 23 in 49.60 seconds over the Oklahoma training turf.

“She’s a good filly, she’s trained very forwardly,” Clement said. “There’s a bit of a question mark in terms of the ground, but I am very happy with her. I just hope that the ground is not too extreme.”

A victory would give Clement an eighth stakes victory of the meet.

Jockey Joel Rosario, who has secured eight stakes victories this meet, will return to the saddle from post 2.

Clement also sends out Mischievous Dream, who will stretch out to two turns for the first time after finishing fourth in the Bolton Landing on August 19 at the Spa.

A Patricia Generazio New York homebred, the bay daughter of Into Mischief won on debut, sprinting 5 ½ furlongs over the Mellon turf at the Spa on July 19.

Mischievous Dream is out of the Trippi mare Just Livin a Dream, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winning multimillionaire on turf Presious Passion.

“She will likely be the speed of the race,” said Clement.

Mischievous Dream will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 3.

Trainer Graham Motion will be represented by Invincible Gal, who was a half-length maiden winner on debut going 5 ½ furlongs on August 7 at the Spa.

The bay daughter of Invincible Spirit is out of the Acclamation broodmare Alsindi and is owned by Michael J. Ryan, Jeff Drown and Team Hanley. She was purchased overseas at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale last October, where she was hammered down to $258,109.

Jockey Jose Ortiz will be aboard from post 1.

Harold Lerner and Magdalena Racing’s Simply Ravishing arrives off a maiden victory going two turns at Saratoga on August 1.

Bred in New York by Meg Levy, the Kenny McPeek trained daughter of Laoban defeated open company in her career debut at 14-1 odds. Simply Ravishing is out of the More Than Ready broodmare Four Wishes.

Jockey Luis Saez will seek his fourth stakes win of the meet aboard Simply Ravishing from post 7.

Completing the field is Matthew Schera’s Thursday, who takes a big jump up in class for trainer James Lawrence II.

The daughter of Midshipman was a two-length winner on debut at Delaware Park, where she ran for a $40,000 tag.

Jockey Jose Lezcano, who piloted Coasted to a P.G. Johnson victory in 2016, will ride from post 4.

The Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Union Gables and Con Lima have been entered for main track only.

The P.G. Johnson pays tribute to the late thoroughbred conditioner who, according to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame won at least one race at Saratoga for 41 straight years from 1962-2003. The native of Chicago had a training career that lasted six decades with his biggest claim to fame taking place in 2002, when he saddled Breeders’ Cup Classic upset winner Volponi. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.

The P.G. Johnson is slated as Race 3 on today’s 10-race card, which offers a first post of 1:10 p.m.

NYSSS Park Avenue

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Stakes-winner Big Q will make her second start at Saratoga Race Course in less than three weeks as trainer Gary Gullo will wheel her back in today’s $100,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series Park Avenue for state-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by GMP Stables, Big Q won her debut last July at Saratoga and later notched a five-length victory in the Key Cents in November at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Big Brown filly started her sophomore campaign with back-to-back runner-up efforts in New York-bred stakes, starting with the 6 ½-furlong Franklin Square in January at the Big A and in the Bouwerie on June 28 at Belmont Park.

Returning to the Spa, Big Q ran seventh against optional claimers on Aug. 16, breaking from the outermost post 11 and tracking in second position before tiring late, but will look to rebound in the 27th running of the 6 1/2-furlong Park Avenue. Jockey Joel Rosario, aboard for her first win, will ride from post 4.

“She’s doing well,” Gullo said. “The last one was a little disappointing for her, but I think she was up close to a fast pace and I think this race should be a little easier for her. I got Rosario and I’m just hopeful he can sit a little bit off the pace. But she’s training good and came out of the race great. I’m hopeful.”

Big Q, bred by Golden Goose Enterprises, is 2-2-0 in eight career starts and will be making her fifth start at Saratoga as she looks to make amends.

“I think the other races before that puts her right in the game,” Gullo said. “It’s a new surface at Saratoga this year, so hopefully she does well now. Rosario knows her, so hopefully we’ll get things turned around.”

Spin a Yarn won all four of her races at Finger Lakes and will now take a step up in class for trainer Chris Progno. The Chester and Mary Broman homebred captured her debut in September by 12 1/2 lengths. With restrictions due to COVID-19 preventing Finger Lakes from reopening until the summer, the daughter of Forty Tales could not return to the track until July 20, but has won three races since, including a six-length score against allowance company on July 29.

Progno said he had a work planned for her after that race but instead ran her in a six-furlong allowance on August 26. Instead of registering an official breeze, Spin a Yarn earned another trip to the winner’s circle following her 3 ½-length triumph.

“She’s been doing phenomenal,” Progno said. “Basically, the race was a work prep for the stake race. She did it in hand; as easy as you could have asked. She wasn’t exerted and was never asked. The rider saved a lot of horse and she went easy. She can be a little finicky in the feed tub when eating but since that race, she’s been cleaning her feed tub right out. As of now, she’s taken all the right steps to go up there and compete.”

Progno, who will be looking for his first career Saratoga stakes win, said the 10-month break between her first start and her sophomore bow gave Spin a Yarn time to fill out and improve in her training.

“Mentally, she’s really matured in that time. She still is a little bit of a high-strung filly, but she was more so as a 2-year-old,” Progno said. “I think she’s matured there. She’s more classy and figuring out what she has to do and is more professional than she was as a first-timer.”

Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount, drawing post 3.

Nicky Scissors, owned by Michael Dubb and The Elkstone Group, ran third in the NYSSS Statue of Liberty at 1 1/16 miles on the turf on July 23 at Saratoga. Trainer Brad Cox will return her to dirt, where she ran second in her debut in December at Aqueduct before breaking her maiden at second asking over the same track in January. She ran fifth at the Ozone Park-based course in her last main-track appearance in the one-mile Maddie May in February.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be in the irons from post 2.

Rounding out the field is The Important One, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen who has two wins in four starts and will return to the main track after two turf races [post 6, Jose Ortiz]; Mani Pedi, who broke her maiden at second asking on July 22 at the Spa, for trainer H. James Bond [post 5, Luis Saez]; Officer Hutchy, who will be making his first start for trainer Rob Atras after being claimed for $25,000 off a winning effort on August 16 at Saratoga [post 7, Dylan Davis]; and Holmdel Park, conditioned by James Ryerson [post 1, Kendrick Carmouche].

The NYSSS Park Avenue is one of two stakes on today’s nine-race card, going off as Race 6 with a post time of 4.01 p.m. First post is 1:10 p.m. with the $100,000 P.G. Johnson slated as Race 3.

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