‘No Room For Error’ With Late-Running Juvenile Fillies Turf Longshot Crystalle

Tobey Morton and her husband Mike bought a daughter of Palice Malice in April that they thought was headed to a career on dirt. Six months later they will watch Crystalle run Friday in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Park.

The Mortons sold a stake in her to Chuck Hovitz before she debuted at Saratoga this summer and she has brought the partners to the Breeders’ Cup. It has been an unusual ride that began with her being disqualified from first to third in her first start. She broke her maiden in a stake, beating another Breeders’ Cup-bound subsequent stakes winner (Sweet Melania) and just missed in the Miss Grillo in her third race.

Trainer John Kimmel said the move to the grass was an experiment.

“She was training with some colts that were outworking her,” Kimmel said. “Even though she was finishing pretty well she didn’t really seem to have much early speed. In the summer, if you didn’t want to get facialed in a 2-year-old sprint race, the option was to stretch her out and put her on the grass.

“Not knowing what the outcome would be – I had worked her one time on the grass – we ran her a mile and a sixteenth on the grass. True to form, she kind of broke, fell back to trail the field by seven, eight, 10 lengths, then started picking up horses. When she reached the second turn she started to cruise, got to the top of the lane, switched leads and she took off.”

Though Crystalle won easily by 2 ¼ lengths, the stewards ruled she had bothered other horses and dropped her to third.

Rather than try again in a maiden race, Kimmel and the owners opted to jump to a stake. Fearing that she might not get into the field of the Natalma at Woodbine, they ran her in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga. She missed the break because the assistant starter was holding her head in the gate, roared from behind and caught eventual Jessamine stakes winner Sweet Melania at the wire. In the Miss Grillo at Belmont under Joel Rosario on Sept. 29, she turned in another big performance behind a slow pace.

“He just left her a very lot to do,” Kimmel said. “She came flying and just didn’t get there in time, even though she ran her last quarter in 22.17 seconds, which is extremely fast for a 2-year-old filly.”

Crystalle, though just one for three in her career, showed her connections enough to try to the one-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf with their “dirt” horse

“Hopefully this race will be a much more pace-orientated race,” Kimmel said. “The takeaway is that it’s going to be a sixteenth shorter, so it’s going to be a tough task. You can’t have an encumbered run. Basically, she is going to have to make her run and not stop. There is no room for error in this race with 14 horses. She’s a very happy girl and hopefully she’s going to come out and have a fighting chance to have this thing done.”

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