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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Peter Brant’s two-time defending race champion Sistercharlie seeks to rebound off a poor 2020 debut and become the first threepeat winner in Sunday’s $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
The Diana is a 1 1/8-mile inner turf route restricted to fillies and mares ages 4 and up. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a nine-race card with a local post time of 5:18 PM.
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Here is a look at the full field for the Diana:
1. Call Me Love 8/1 – After spending her first two racing seasons in Italy, she shipped stateside to join the Christophe Clement barn and has finished second in 2 of her 3 starts, all at the graded stakes level. She missed by just a neck in the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) last time out, but she has to improve after finishing behind a familiar rival in all 3 stateside appearances.
“She’s been training great,” Clement said. “Not okay; great. I think the distance suits her well – a mile and 1/16 to a mile and 1/8 is good for her. There might be some rain in the forecast and she’s run well on softer turf before, so we’re ready to go.”
2. Secret Message 20/1 – The longest shot on the board kicked off 2020 with a 25/1 upset in May’s Mint Julep Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs and was most recently third, beaten 1 length, in the 1 1/16-mile Perfect Sting Stakes over this course. Like the rival to her inside, she’s yet to hit the board in 4 prior Grade 1 attempts and hasn’t found success at Saratoga in 3 tries.
3. Rushing Fall 3/2 – “The Turf Rocket” enters this race in career-best form – quite the statement, considering she’s won at least one Grade 1 at ages 2, 3, 4, and 5. She’s undefeated in both 2020 starts and has won 2 of 3 starts at this distance (her lone defeat came as the runner-up in last year’s Diana) and keeps the services of Javier Castellano, the only rider she’s ever known.
4. Starship Jubilee 9/2 – Still going strong at age 7, she’s won all 4 starts this year, including the Ballston Spa over two rivals whom she sees again here. She also has 4 wins from 6 starts at this distance and it’s noteworth that trainer Kevin Attard decided to ship her back down to New York for this event, rather than staying put at their home base of Woodbine.
5. Sistercharlie 5/2 – The 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) champion was undefeated last season until she finished third in last year’s World Championships. Her 2020 debut in the Ballston Spa was uninspiring, but perhaps she turns it around in her second start off the bench for trainer Chad Brown, who also saddles the morning line favorite.
“They both seem to be training very well and coming into the race the right way,” Brown said. “There are some nice horses in the race, so it looks like another great edition of the Diana.”
6. Mean Mary 3/1 – She climbs the ladder to the top ranks after successfully passing every prior test, including winning the 1 1/4-mile New York Stakes (G2) by a country mile last time out. This is the toughest field that she’s faced to date, but expect to see the Graham Motion trainee on the front end early and try to hold them all off in the stretch.
“She’s been pointing to this race for a long time,” said Motion, who’s using the Diana as a possible prep for the 1 3/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. “I need to find out if she can handle these shorter distances. She certainly did before we started running her at these longer races, but not at this level. She’s trained really well for this race and hasn’t really missed a beat. It’ll be a small but solid group of horses she’s facing.”
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