Although tempted by the opportunity to run Chocolate Kisses on Saturday at Kentucky Downs for four times the purse money, trainer Mark Casse decided to stay at Saratoga with his promising 2-year-old filly, opting for the softer spot in Thursday’s $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes.
Chocolate Kisses is likely to vie for favoritism with Mintd, who makes her U.S. debut in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for juvenile fillies named after the late Hall of Fame trainer.
Chocolate Kisses was scheduled to launch her career on turf, only to have her debut moved to a sloppy main track where she finished second after contesting the pace from the outset on June 22. Chocolate Kisses finally got the chance to try turf for the first time one month later, making the most of the opportunity by registering a one-length victory going 1 1/16 miles under Irad Ortiz Jr.
Chocolate Kisses is by Candy Ride out of the multiple turf stakes-winning mare Brownie Points. She is a half-sister to the three-time graded turf stakes winner Synchrony, who finished third earlier this year in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
“We flirted with taking her to Kentucky Downs on opening day to run for $400,000, but in the end decided this would be a pretty good spot for her, and hopefully a good lead-in to the race at Keeneland,” said Casse, referring to the Grade 2 Jessamine on Oct. 10.
“We figured all along that with her pedigree she’d like the turf. She actually trains really well on dirt and her last breeze over the main track was exceptionally good. But she’s a big, lanky thing, and I think right now it’s more about her wanting extra ground than anything else.”
Casse, who trains Chocolate Kisses for Debby Oxley, will swap out one Ortiz brother for another in the P G Johnson, with Jose Ortiz replacing Irad, who opted to take the call instead on Mintd.
Mintd is one of two fillies Chad Brown will send out in the P.G. Johnson along with the maiden Dogtag. Mintd has run four times in her native Ireland, winning her maiden going six furlongs on June 3 in her third start.
“She’s unproven at the distance like a lot of them, and it’s her first time in this country trying a mile and a sixteenth around two turns,” said Brown, who has had Mintd in his barn for six weeks. “She’s training like she has some quality.”
Dogtag was bet to 3-5 launching her career on Aug. 5 in a race switched from the turf to the main track. She prompted the pace and finished fourth, and was placed third when the third-place finisher was disqualified for interference.
“I thought she ran really well in her dirt prep,” Brown said. “She was probably too close to a really hot pace and got a lot out of it. We always thought a lot of her. With so many rainouts and the uncertainty of whether she’d get in a maiden race on the grass, we decided we’d try her in the stakes.”
A field of 11 2-year-old fillies was drawn for the P.G. Johnson, with Guacamole and Cassies Dreamer designated as main-track-only entrants. The remainder of the lineup includes Road Tiger, Miss Technicality, O’Malley, Global Exchange, Chasing the Kitty, and Varenka.
Road Tiger, Miss Technicality and O’Malley are all maiden winners on the grass, while Chasing the Kitty won her debut by 10 1/2 lengths going a mile over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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