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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Saratoga is back in action! After a meet unlike any other last season with no fans in attendance, it’s great to see this place return to normal with 100% allowed at the historic oval. This Saturday’s $500,000 Diana Stakes, the first Grade 1 event of the meet, drew a solid field of turf fillies and mares.
Scheduled as race 10, the Diana will be run at 6:16 PM Eastern.
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Heading the filed are the 1-2 finishers of the Just a Game Stakes (G1) for trainer Charlie Appleby. In that races, Althiqa rallied past stablemate Summer Romance in a great performance by both runners. Althiqa will try to make it 2 in a row after breaking from post 8 with Manny Franco up for the ride, while Summer Romance will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 8.
The Bill Mott-trained Harvey’s Lil Goil also adds plenty of intrigue. She impressively won the Beaugay Stakes (G3) 2 starts back before finishing fifth last time out over a yielding turf course in the New York Stakes (G2). The classy filly will break from post 5 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
You can’t talk about this race without mentioning Chad Brown, who’s looking to win this event for a mind-blowing sixth year in a row. He’ll try to get the job done with either Pocket Square or Lemista, who will try to win after suffering defeats last time out. Pocket Square will break from post 2 with John Velazquez up for the ride, while Lemista will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. from post 7.
“We’ve had enormous success with it; I’m lucky. We’ve had the right horses,” Brown said. “It’s a real honor to have that level of success, looking back at 5 Dianas in a row.”
The full field from the rail out: La Signare, Pocket Square, Magic Attitude, Vigilantes Way, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Summer Romance, Lemista, and Althiqa.
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#2 Pocket Square – We’ll see if she can bounce back after a poor effort last time out in the Just a Game, where she was our top pick, so it was extra disappointing when she came up empty down the stretch. Brown believes she’s coming into this race in better shape, though, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see her give the barn its sixth straight victory in this race. Brown putting her right back in this spot says a lot about what he thinks of her chances.
“She missed her last work with the storms that came through and maybe the soft-ish turf (in the Just a Game) didn’t help,” said Brown. “I really thought she was lined up really well going into the Just a Game and I was hopeful she could overcome, but things just didn’t work out. She’s come back and worked really super, so I’m drawing a line through it and going right back at another Grade 1 with her.”
#8 Althiqa – She’ll try to make it 2 in a row after an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Just a Game Stakes (G1). Many of the same horses from that race return for this one, which is good news for her. There’s no reason to think that she can’t win once again and is a deserving favorite.
#7 Lemista – She finished a solid second in the Beaugay last time out in her American debut for Brown. She was only defeated a 1/2-length by Harvey’s Lil Goil, who is one of America’s best turf females. With improvement off of that race (which seems likely in her second start in this country), we could see her win here.
“She’s a top class filly. I have high hopes for her,” Brown said. “We’ve been pointing for this race for a while and I’m excited to get to it. I think that the time has done her well. She’s been working consistently well.”
#5 Harvey’s Lil Goil – This filly has exuded class since moving to the turf. Last year, she won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland before finishing third by only a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) against a top-notch group. She started off 2021 winning the Beaugay, but she didn’t run well in the New York last time out. Look for her to bounce back and fill out an underneath spot.
“It was very soft ground,” Mott said of the New York effort. “Some of our stakes have been run on really soft ground and it could have worked against her a little bit.”
#6 Summer Romance – She was impressive in her American debut last time out, nearly taking the Just a Game in gate to wire fashion before being caught late by her stablemate Althiqa. Her trip was perfect in that spot and she could get a similar setup again here. There is no doubt she’ll play a big factor in this race.
#3 Magic Attitude – Her career has been up and down since moving to the United States. She captured the Belmont Oaks in her American debut and also won the Sheepshead Bay, but she’s struggled in some of her recent starts. She must rebound off of a poor seventh in the New York last time out.
#1 La Signare – She’s been a consistent runner for years, performing well at multiple different tracks, but this will be her first start at Saratoga. It’s been a while since we’ve seen her in the winner’s circle, though she has hit the board in back-to-back Grade 1 events.
#4 Vigilantes Way – She won impressively last time out at Monmouth Park but is now entered in a much more difficult spot. She’ll have to step up her game to compete with the favorites.
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