by Najja Thompson
Making only her second career start, LNJ Foxwoods' Dogtag bested a field of six for a maiden-breaking victory in the 14th running of the $100,000 P.G. Johnson for juvenile fillies on the inner turf Thursday at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking from the rail as the odds-on favorite with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard, Dogtag stalked comfortably from third position as Road Tiger set fractions of 24.20 seconds for the opening quarter-mile with the half in 49.92.
At the quarter-pole, O'Malley made a move to the front, briefly taking the lead at the top of the stretch. Challenged by Chocolate Kisses to her outside, Dogtag was sent into a drive along the rail. All out, Dogtag extended away to the wire, securing the victory by a length.
The Chad Brown-trainee completed the 1 1/16 miles distance in a final time of 1:45.82 on the inner turf course listed as yielding.
"She hanged a little bit, but it was soft ground," said Castellano. "I just drove her a little to get my spot and not be stuck at the back. I knew sooner or later, those horses would back up a little bit. I tried to figure out my move; I didn't want to go wide in the turn but at the same time, I didn't want to be stopped inside the rail. Those things went through my mind, but when I asked her, she split horses and [found] a tiny hole inside the rail. Not many horses do that, and she did. I was very impressed."
Returning $4.30 for a $2 win wager, the War Front filly bred by her owners proved successful in a her turf debut after finishing fourth in her first career start on August 5 at Saratoga in a race taken off the turf.
Following Varenka in second was Chocolate Kisses, O'Malley, Road Tiger, and Chasing the Kitty.