SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Dacita outkicked a crowded field in the stretch and bested Recepta by a nose in a thrilling blanket finish to capture Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Diana for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-up at Saratoga Race Course.
The Chilean-born 5-year-old made a game late charge under Irad Ortiz, Jr. as rain fell on the Mellon turf course to win her first career Grade 1 start.
Dacita went six-wide turning for home and rallied on the far outside, moving from sixth at the top of the stretch to hit the wire in 1.46.25 over 1 1/8 miles in a photo finish. It was her second straight graded stakes victory after winning the Grade 2 New York last out on June 10 at Belmont Park.
The Diana, which completed its 78th running, was the first of 18 Grade 1 events in the Saratoga meet that runs through September 5.
Trainer Chad Brown, who won the Belmont spring-summer training title, posted his second win in the race and first since Zagora in 2011.
“Dacita loves Saratoga and she knows where the wire is,” Brown said. “The first quarter there they were rolling along. I know they tried to slow it down some but it really set the tone for the race that someone from behind, or in mid-pack at worse, was probably going to have the best run. Irad was patient and worked out another great trip for Dacita, and she timed it just right.”
Dacita, who went off as the 4-1 second choice, broke last as Isabella Sings set a blistering early pace by taking the 10-horse field through an opening quarter of 22.88 seconds, a half-mile in 47.25 and three-quarters in 1:11.08. Ortiz then moved her out approaching the quarter pole before going to the whip late as less than two lengths separated the top five finishers.
“She’s a nice filly. I got the perfect trip while saving ground,” Ortiz said. “She came from last and came running at the end.”
Recepta, trained by three-time Diana winner Jimmy Tonner, brushed with Dacita and Rainha Da Bateria in the stretch. A stewards’ inquiry did not result in any changes.
“They were coming out a little and we just had a little contact – brushing,” Ortiz said. “My impression was that they came out more than anything.”
Dacita paid $10.20 on a $2 win wager and improved her career earnings to $967,361.
Two of Brown’s four entries finished in the money as Rainha Da Bateria came in third, just a head behind Recepta. Mrs. McDougal and Wekeela finished seventh and last, respectively.
“Obviously two of them ran real well and the other two were disappointing, so I need to go back to the drawing board with those other horses (Wekeela and Mrs McDougal) because I know they’re top-class horses as well,” Brown said. “It was Dacita’s day today, but all of them will probably head in different directions from here.”
Miss Temple City, who was the 2-1 favorite, finished fourth in her first start at 1 /18 miles since her second-place finish in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in October. The Graham Motion-trained 4-year-old made her return to America after a fourth-place finish on June 15 in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge at Royal Ascot.
Strike Charmer, Onus, Mrs McDougal, Isabella Sings, Sandiva and Wekeela completed the order of finish.