Fresh off a fourth-place showing at Royal Ascot, Miss Temple City will look to post her second consecutive graded stakes victory in the United States as she highlights an accomplished 10-horse field in the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on Saturday, the first Grade 1 of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.
The Diana, held over 1 1/8 miles on the mellon turf course, will be Miss Temple City’s first start since the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge on June 15. The Graham Motion-trained bay filly will be looking to be the first 4-year-old to win the Diana since Winter Memories in 2012.
“I’ve been very happy with how she’s come back from England, otherwise I wouldn’t be racing her,” Motion said. “She’s had a good month and I couldn’t be happier with her. You wonder if the trip might affect her, running against those conditions. But I don’t see any negative effects that it’s had on her. I felt like when she came back to America, I targeted the Diana, and everything fell into place.”
Miss Temple City made history in her last stateside start when she beat a field of colts in the Grade 1, $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile on April 15 at Keeneland with a stretch-drive surge to become the first filly to win the race since its inception in 1989.
The daughter of Temple City finished second in her Grade 1 debut, a head behind Her Emmynecy in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on October 15 at Keeneland. She will leave Saturday from post 2 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons.
“We’ll likely just settle off the lead,” Motion said. “Todd Pletcher’s filly [Isabella Sings] is going to be on the lead, I’d imagine. We’re going to be tucked in somewhere behind her.”
Mrs McDougal breezed five furlongs in 1:01.12 on Sunday at Belmont in her final work before the Diana. The bay filly, who came in third last out in the Grade 1 Just a Game, has shown an affinity for the Saratoga course after winning the 2015 Grade 2 Lake George.
Mrs McDougal drew post 5 with jockey Joel Rosario aboard.
“She’s training well and I think she deserves another shot in a Grade 1,” said trainer Chad Brown of Mrs McDougal, one of his four Diana entrants.
Dacita, who won the Grade 2 New York last out on June 16 at Belmont, also entered for Brown and won last year’s Grade 2 Ballston Spa. In the New York, Dacita went from fifth in the stretch to a three-quarter length victory. She will leave from post 6 teamed with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Wekeela, a French-bred 4-year-old, has finished second in her first two American starts since joining Brown’s barn, which were both Grade 1 races. Wekeela was beaten by five lengths behind in the Jenny Wiley on April 16 at Keeneland before finishing just one-length behind Illuminant in the Gamely on May 30 at Belmont. She registered a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 in both races and will depart from post 4 with jockey Javier Castellano.
Rainha Da Bateria will be looking for her first graded stakes win since the 2014 Grade 3 Jessamine. The 4-year-old from Ireland will be ridden by Julien Leparoux out of post 9.
“With all my entries in this race, I’ll let me jockeys place them where the horse is comfortable,” Brown said.
Recepta, who finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Mrs McDougal for second in the Just a Game, will be making her first Saratoga start since her maiden-breaking victory in 2013 for trainer Jimmy Toner.
“She shipped out great and the [race] should set up well for her,” said Tiffany Webb, assistant to Toner. “She likes it here. The weather changes from Belmont where it’s a little more humid. It’s a little cooler up here. She’s had several runs this year. Fitness is not an issue.”
Recepta will exit from post 7 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
“She had a great breeze [1:02.76 on July 10] and we were very pleased with it,” Webb said. “She didn’t breeze this weekend because it was just too hot. She’s doing well enough and worked well enough last week that we just decided she didn’t really need it.”
Strike Charmer, eighth in the Just a Game, has finished first or second in three of her last five starts and is seeking her first career Grade 1 victory.
The 6-year-old has posted 90-plus Beyer Speed Figures in six of her last seven starts, including a career-high 100 in her victory in the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 14 at Belmont Park.
“She’s doing well and settled in nice,” trainer Mark Hennig said. “She’s run well here before. I think the two turns will help her. I’d prefer a little pace. If she gets pace, she fires. Hopefully we don’t get one of those dawdling paces.”
Strike Charmer will be making her first graded stakes start at Saratoga and will leave from post 3 with Junior Alvarado in the saddle.
Onus will be making her Grade 1 debut coming off a third-place finish in the listed Perfect Sting on July 2 at Belmont. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Onus has one graded stakes victory to her credit with the Grade 3 Commonwealth Oaks on September 26 at Laurel Park. She will leave out of post 8 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Isabella Sings, who along with Sandiva represents the Todd Pletcher entries, will break from the outside. The 4-year-old chestnut filly won the Grade 3 Eatontown last out on June 25 at Monmouth Park.
Sandiva drew the rail with Manny Franco aboard. The Irish-bred 5-year-old has finished in the money in four straight starts and in eight of her last nine starts.
The meet will mark the continuation of a great rivalry as Brown, the leading trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2015, will be vying for the H. Allen Jerkens training title at Saratoga. Pletcher is the six-time defending champion and has 12 total titles. Brown is coming off his first Belmont spring-summer training title with 38 winners to Pletcher’s 25.
#4 Wekeela – What a race this one is going to be! While I love Miss Temple City and the way she ran at Royal Ascot last time out I’m still going with an upset pick here. Wekeela has only made two American starts, but both of those races have really impressed me. First was a strong effort where she finished second to super star Tepin, and next was another strong second place effort on the West Coast in a grade one where she finished second to Illuminant. Perhaps the home track advantage helped Illuminant that day as Wekeela had defeated her the time before that at Keeneland. I think Chad Brown has this horse ready to roll in this spot, and hopefully the pace will be swift. Dacita, also from the Brown barn, might draw more money than Wekeela as well which makes this play even more intriguing.
#2 Miss Temple City – There is absolutely nothing bad you can say about her 2016 as she’s ran two bang up races in a row to kick off her campaign. It started at Keeneland where she boldly faced the boys in the Grade 1 Makers Mile winning rather easily, and then she went over to Royal Ascot and finished a decent fourth in a very tough race. Today’s race is no joke as well though, and her only start over this course was a loss in the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes. Still it’s very hard to find many negatives as she’s more than capable of getting it done today in this spot. Taking a flier with a Chad Brown up and comer as my top choice, but will play Miss Temple City in everything as well.
#6 Dacita – Who was the last horse to beat Tepin? That would be Dacita as she just nipped her at the wire last year on Travers Day in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes. The problem now is the fact that she hasn’t ran as well as that effort since in four starts. However, there are two positives. First off she is coming into this race off a win in the Grade 2 New York, and secondly she is returning to the track where she had a top effort and as mentioned beat Tepin who now looks unbeatable. Not extremely confident in her, but those two factors have to get you excited about her being able to pull off another upset at The Spa.
#10 Isabella Sings – There is no question what this one is going to do…go straight to the front and try to take them all the way. Pay close attention to how the track is playing throughout the day. If speed is holding well she is going to be tough to pass. In fact four races back she opened up a 19 length lead on the world class mare Tepin. She was eventually caught and passed by the great Tepin, but she was only defeated a length. How the track is playing will be the key on how you choose to play her. If its speed favoring move her to the likely winners category.
#1 Sandiva – This mare has shown a ton of class throughout her career, and is one you can never throw out. No matter the competition she usually comes with her normal race each and every time, and two races back she even ran well on the dirt. However, turf is definitely her thing so it’s good to see her back on it today. I don’t view her as good enough to beat the top class mares in the race, but she can definitely get up for a piece of things like she usually does. She’s 13 of 20 lifetime on hitting the board.
#5 Mrs. McDougal – The biggest thing going for her today is a big win over the Saratoga turf course last year in the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes. The turf at Saratoga can be quirky, so that win does mean something to me. In fact she is one of only four horses in the race that do have a win over the track, and you can never count out Chad Brown on the turf here. Last time she won here in the Lake George she was flying under the radar a bit as well so this is a similar spot for her today.
#9 Rainha Da Bateria – Has ran some big races against tough competition including Tepin two races back were she was only beaten by 3 or so lengths. However, she hasn’t won since October of 2014 so it’s hard to go with her in this tough spot.
#3 Strike Charmer – She ran a 100 beyer speed figure two races back…and I’m throwing her out today. That shows the talent that is in this race. She’ll need a top effort to compete with these today.
#7 Recepta – Yet another mare that has had some great races, but not sure she can match up with these in this spot today. In a race like this one of these “throw outs” could certainly jump up and win, but it’s hard to support them from a handicapping perspective.
#8 Onus – Definitely not a bad horse, but just not a horse that I think can match up with these today. This race is absolutely loaded with top notch talent.