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2023 Diana Stakes Replay | Whitebeam Upsets In Italian For Thrilling Saratoga Photo Finish
Whitebeam (5) nails In Italian on the wire (Gary Johnson/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Diana Stakes Replay | Whitebeam Upsets In Italian For Thrilling Saratoga Photo Finish

Whitebeam won the 2023 Diana Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in a thrilling photo finish over her stablemate & the defending race champion In Italian, giving trainer Chad Brown his record 8th race victory. Did the 4-year-old Caravaggio filly unseat In Italian as America’s top female turf horse? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown captured the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana for the eighth time when Juddmonte’s British homebred Whitebeam denied stablemate In Italian a second straight triumph in Saturday’s 85th running of the nine-furlong Mellon turf test for older fillies and mares, at Saratoga Race Course.

Brown has won seven of the last eight editions with Dacita [2016], Lady Eli [2017], Sistercharlie [2018-19], Rushing Fall [2020] and In Italian. He also won in 2011 with Zagora. This year marked the fourth time that Brown was represented by as many as four horses in the race, saddling the top-two finishers as well as Marketsegmentation and Fluffy Socks, who both arrived off graded-stakes victories.

“It’s a very big part of our annual schedule. We circle this race early on and through the years, I’ve had so many nice fillies sent to me and my team from all over,” Brown said. “Really, my team deserves all the credit for developing these horses. You’re talking about eight runnings of this race they’ve won with all different kinds of horses – you have to have a lot of talent to be able to work with horses of all shapes and sizes from all over the world to continually show up in this race and have them ready. They deserve all the credit.”

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Whitebeam entered having never gone as far as nine furlongs and was a last out 2 1/2-length winner of the Grade 3 Gallorette going 1 1/16 miles on May 20 at Pimlico, defeating next out stakes winners Sopran Basilea and Bipartisanship. The 4-year-old Caravaggio gray had no issues with the extra ground, stalking In Italian the whole way around and pouncing at the right time in deep stretch to win by a nose.

Breaking from the outermost post 5 under Flavien Prat, Whitebeam settled in third position to the outside of the Javier Castellano-piloted Fev Rover as In Italian led the field through splits of 23.96 seconds, 48 flat and 1:11.86 over the firm going.

Whitebeam inched her way up to second place around the far turn and just off the flank of In Italian, who was asked for more by Irad Ortiz, Jr. in upper stretch. The two engaged down the lane with In Italian holding a narrow advantage until the final strides, as Whitebeam got her nose down on the wire and stopped the clock in 1:48.33. In Italian finished another half-length clear of Fev Rover, who put up a valiant effort to finish third.

It was another 5 1/4 lengths back to Marketsegmentation, who was a half-length better than Fluffy Socks to complete the order of finish.

“We had a good trip. She got us into the race and I was behind In Italian, who I thought was a good filly to follow. And she really [dug] in down the lane,” Prat said. “It was a great effort. In Italian you obviously have to respect. You know she is a great filly, so obviously when you turn for home and you’ve kept up with her, you don’t know if you’ll be able to go by her but my filly was really brave and she’s been improving.”

Brown was full of praise for both Whitebeam and In Italian.

“It was really tight there and In Italian ran her heart out. I think the turf’s pretty soft and she was going pretty quick there,” Brown said. “Flavien rode a good stalking race and the one horse [Fev Rover] really wanted to be up in there, and as Flavien told me, he really had to go early and keep pressure too, because Javier looked like he wanted to be where Whitebeam was. They ran around in a pack there and it was pretty fast fractions on this soft of a turf. Whitebeam, she also ran just a little bit better today and was able to handle the soft ground and showed a lot of heart late.”

The Diana was Whitebeam’s third start under Brown’s care after winning three races overseas for trainers Harry and Roger Charlton. She made her stateside debut in April when finishing a late-closing second in the one-mile Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct en route to her Gallorette score.

Returning $17.60 for a $2 win wager, Whitebeam was the highest odds of the Brown tetrad. But nevertheless, Brown said she had shown promise over the winter when training at Payson Park Training Center in South Florida after being sent to him by Juddmonte General Manager Garrett O’Rourke.

“She trained as good as [any] in my top handful of horses all winter at Payson Park. I was shocked she got beat first time out to be honest,” Brown said. “She trained really well and I’m just so fortunate Juddmonte sent me this horse in excellent shape – the horse was sound and the first time I breezed her, I called Garrett O’Rourke in Kentucky and I just thanked him repeatedly for sending me the horse. The first work was Grade 1 potential.”

Brown has won the last five runnings of the Grade 1, $750,000 First Lady and said both Whitebeam and In Italian, who took last year’s edition, could come under consideration for the one-mile test on October 7 at Keeneland.

“It’s in play certainly [for Whitebeam], as for In Italian, who has had tremendous success at Keeneland. We’ll just have to see. Keeping the horses healthy is the main thing,” Brown said.

Ortiz, Jr. said he was disappointed to get beat aboard In Italian, but was proud of his millionaire mare’s effort.

“She was fine. She was happy. I think a little firmer [turf] would help a lot. She kept fighting,” said Ortiz, Jr., who previously piloted Brown’s Diana winners Dacita and Lady Eli. “She’s done it before. When I need her, she fight, fight, fight. But in the last couple jumps, she hung.”

Whitebeam banked $275,000 in victory and increased her lifetime earnings to $396,308 through a consistent record of 9-5-2-1.

Whitebeam is out of the Oasis Dream mare Sleep Walk, who is a half-sister to Group 1 winner Logician. She and In Italian are both direct descendants of influential matriarch Best in Show.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race program headlined by the Grade 3, $175,000 Quick Call presented by Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Race 9. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.