08/30/2010 11:50AM

Arch Support steps up to stakes in P.G. Johnson

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Gary Contessa will try to redeem his Saratoga meet with Arch Support in the P.G. Johnson.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Gary Contessa has had a frustrating Saratoga meeting. But Contessa says he’s still got several live horses yet to fire during the final week of the session, including Arch Support in Wednesday’s $70,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Arch Support gave Contessa one of his three victories here this summer, when she won a maiden race on the turf. And Contessa thinks his filly is both mature and talented enough to successfully take the step right into stakes company.

“She ran hard on the lead and held off the cavalry in her last start, and on numbers she’s one of the ones in this race,” Contessa said. “She’s a gritty filly, with the attitude of a 3- or 4-year-old and perhaps mentally she’ll have an edge on some of the younger 2-year-olds in this field.”

Contessa said that even though Arch Support won her maiden on the lead, she doesn’t necessarily have to be in front to win the P.G. Johnson.

“The way the race materializes will probably go a long way towards deciding the outcome,” Contessa said. “I think she’ll rate, but it’s my intention to put her on the lead and let the others figure out what to do.”

Contessa said he’s also hopeful that Arch Support will help kick off a big closing week to what has been a disappointing summer for his stable.

“We’ve lost nine races in photo finishes, but the meet’s not over yet,” Contessa said. “I think we can add three or four more wins to the total before it ends.”

To win the P.G. Johnson, Contessa and Arch Support will have to defeat eight other 2-year-old fillies, including Lauren Byrd and Avanta from the barn of leading trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher also entered the speedy Sky Hosoya, should the race come off the grass.

Lauren Byrd defeated Arch Support by a nose going six furlongs in her only start.

“She’s very professional, has trained well; I don’t think the added distance will bother her,” Pletcher said. “We’ve pointed towards this race ever since her maiden win.”

Avanta, whom Pletcher claimed for $75,000 out of her maiden win, will race in blinkers for the first time while also making both her grass and two-turn debut in the P.G. Johnson.

– additional reporting by David Grening