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Aaron previews the 2023 Diana Stakes (G1) from Saratoga, then gives his top picks & long shots. In Italian is 1 of 4 Chad Brown trainees entered in the 5-horse field (the Mark Casse-trained Fev Rover is the 5th) as she attempts to maintain her status as America’s top female turf horse. Who will bring the gold back to the stable? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle a quartet of graded stakes-winning distaffers in attempt to maintain his dominance of the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana for older fillies and mares going nine furlongs over the Mellon turf at Saratoga Race Course.
The Diana is slated as Race 4 on Saturday’s 11-race program, which also features the Grade 3, $175,000 Kelso in Race 9 and the Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford in Race 10. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
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One would be hard pressed to find a trainer with as much superiority in a Grade 1 as Brown has in the Diana having won a record seven prior editions, including six of the last seven runnings with Dacita , Lady Eli , Sistercharlie [2018-19], Rushing Fall  and In Italian . He earned his first Diana coup with Zagora in 2011.
Entering four contenders for the Diana is nothing new for Brown, who on three previous occasions saddled a tetrad of runners for the prestigious race en route to victory. Last year, Peter Brant’s In Italian led a Brown-trained superfecta that included graded stakes winning runner-up Technical Analysis followed by Grade/Group 1-winners Bleecker Street and Rougir.
“We point to this race every year,” Brown said. “Luckily, we’ve had a lot of great fillies over the years that have had great success in the race. This year, I think we have a really nice group of fillies as well.”
The 85th running of the Diana features defending winner In Italian, who is sure to flaunt her usual pacesetting tactics. The 5-year-old Dubawi mare enters from a gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 1 Just a Game on June 9 at Belmont Park. She has earned a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure in each of her last five starts, beginning with last year’s Diana – where she was the highest price of Brown’s four entrants.
She utilized her early foot to capture the Grade 1 First Lady on October 8 at Keeneland over stablemate and eventual Champion Female Turf Horse Regal Glory before finishing second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November at Keeneland. In April, In Italian picked up where she left off, wiring the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland en route to her Just a Game score.
“She prefers to run right on the lead if she can get there. I think she’s able to stalk horses, too,” Brown said. “When she can create her owns trips, she’s in much better form that way.”
In Italian, bred in Great Britain by Fairway Thoroughbreds, is out of the group stakes winning Australian-bred Redoute’s Choice mare Florentina. Her sixth dam is influential matriarch Best in Show.
In Italian will emerge from post 2 in rein to Irad Ortiz, Jr. who piloted Dacita and Lady Eli to their Diana scores.
Juddmonte will look to earn their third Diana score with Whitebeam [post 5, Flavien Prat] following past success with Tates Creek  and Proviso .
Initially campaigned overseas by Harry and Roger Charlton, Whitebeam made her Brown debut when a late-closing second beaten a neck to Evvie Jets in the one-mile Plenty of Grace on April 16 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 4-year-old daughter of Caravaggio stretched out to capture the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Gallorette on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, fending off a late rally from next out graded-stakes winner Sopran Basilea to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
“In her first time in the states, she got jammed up wide off a slow pace,” said Brown of the Plenty of Grace effort. “I think she really moved forward having that race experience over here.”
A British homebred, Whitebeam is out of the Oasis Dream mare Sleep Walk, who is a half-sister to Group 1 winner Logician. Like In Italian, Whitebeam also is a direct descendant of Best in Show.
Brown and Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables have garnered plenty of top-level success over the years, but seek their first collaborative Diana win with Marketsegmentation [post 3, Jose Ortiz].
The 4-year-old American Pharoah dark bay rides a three-race win streak, including the Sand Springs on April 1 and the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 7 at Belmont before stretching out past 1 1/16 miles for the first time to capture the 10-furlong Grade 1 New York on June 9 at Belmont. There, she displayed newfound frontrunning tactics and set a moderate tempo down the backstretch and held off a furious late rally from Didia to win by three-quarters of a length.
“She’s won before off the pace and she can go to the front. She can do either, but in this race, I see her right off of it,” Brown said.
Out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Lonelily, Marketsegmentation was a $200,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
Head of Plains Partners’ homebred Fluffy Socks [post 4, Joel Rosario] enters the Diana only a slim margin away from achieving millionaire status [$994,580] and was last seen capturing the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile in her seasonal debut on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
That score was the 5-year-old Slumber bay’s first win since capturing the Grade 2 Sands Point in October 2021 at Belmont. Fluffy Socks went 0-for-7 last year, but picked up graded-stakes placings when second in the Grade 3 Modesty at Churchill Downs, the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga.
“We got her season started off the right way, and hopefully this is her best year,” Brown said. “I thought a mile might have been a little short for her, but she was able to get up in time. She’s in good form and has been breezing well.”
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse will attempt to deny Brown another Diana coup when saddling Tracy Farmer’s graded stakes victress Fev Rover [post 1, Javier Castellano].
The 5-year-old Gutaifan bay will run off two week’s rest after capturing the Grade 2 Nassau on July 1 over yielding turf at Woodbine. The effort was her first start since being elevated to third in last year’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor in October at the Toronto oval.
Firing off the bench is always a tall ask, but Casse is taking some age-old advice from a fellow and late Hall of Fame inductee.
“She’s coming back a little quick, but I’m going with the old Allen Jerkens line, ‘When they’re going good, run ‘em,’” Casse said. “In her last race, there was a little give in the ground, so that’s not going to hurt her feelings. She ran very well last year, but we feel she’s even better now. She’s very happy right now. She just got here from Toronto and is enjoying herself here.”
Previously conditioned by Richard Fahey, Fev Rover was a Group 2 winner in France and finished third in the Group 1 English 1000 Guineas in May 2021 at Newmarket. She was acquired by Farmer from the 2021 Tattersalls December Mares Sale for over $970,000 and made her North American debut when a close second in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly last July at Woodbine before capturing the Grade 2 Canadian over the same track.
Casse said Fev Rover has taken considerable steps forward since last season.
“She’s matured a lot,” Casse noted. “The first couple times she ran, she just wanted to go, go, go. As she has gotten a little older, she’s matured.”
Bred in Ireland by Manister House Stud, Fev Rover is out of the High Chapparal mare Laurelita.
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