We’re back at the great Saratoga meet, and the $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1) kicks off opening Saturday at The Spa with a star-studded field of six fillies and mares, each with solid success in her past performances. While this race is not a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, it probably should be, as last year’s winner of this event, Sistercharlie, went on to win the Filly and Mare Turf (G1) to end her season. The Diana will go off as race nine on the card, with 10 other races scheduled on the day. Post time for the Diana is 5:46 PM ET.
Sistercharlie makes her 2019 debut in this spot after putting in several solid workouts leading up to the race. This mare has a long resume filled with success, including four Grade 1 victories. She comes into this event on a three-race winning streak for trainer Chad Brown, who sends out a loaded foursome for this race.
“She’s training really well,” Brown said. “I wish I had a prep race for her, but she just ran out of time, unfortunately. It’s a tall order to start her back in a Grade 1, but she’s a champion and she likes the course, having won last year, so we’re going to give her a shot.”
The next Brown star to discuss is the “Turf Rocket” Rushing Fall, who has been fantastic in her career. She’s won four straight coming into this spot, including three in Grade 1 events. She kicked off her 2019 season with an impressive win at Keeneland in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) before dominating her competition again in the Just a Game Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
“The distance is about her limit, but she’s done it before,” Brown said. “This will be the toughest race she’s ever run in, but she’s doing really well.”
Brown also sends out Homerique in this spot, who is 2-for-2 since moving to the United States after racing in France in 2018. She started her year off with an impressive win in the Beaugay Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. Last time out, she was an easy winner once again, taking home the New York Stakes (G2) on the day before the Belmont Stakes. This will be her first try against Grade 1 company in the United States, though she has competed in Group 1 races overseas.
“She’s very versatile,” Brown said. “She’s won shorter than this, she’s won longer than this. She’s an extremely versatile and talented filly and I expect her to run well.”
The full field for the first Grade 1 of the legendary Saratoga meet: Thais, Rushing Fall, Mitchell Road, Sistercharlie, Secret Message, and Homerique.
#4 Sistercharlie – It was very tempting to try to go against her in this spot as she returns from a very long layoff since last year’s amazing Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) triumph. She also faces a stacked group here, so winning in back-to-back years is not going to be an easy task. However, it is encouraging that she won the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) last year at Keeneland after a layoff very similar to this one. That gives me confidence that she can do it again here, and the pace should develop decently in front of her despite the short field. The bottom line is that this mare is the top horse in this division until proven otherwise, and her recent workouts give no indication that she has lost a step.
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#6 Homerique – It is likely that this Brown entry will be ignored a bit at the windows, but she is not one to sleep on. Since coming to the United States, she has been flawless, parlaying a workman-like Beaugay Stakes (G3) win into an even more impressive one last time out in the New York Stakes (G2). Even though this is a small field, the pace looks to be fairly lively, which improves her chances even further. She’ll be moving with Sistercharlie down the stretch, and she’ll have a fighting chance because she is in top form and this is Sistercharlie’s first start of the season.
#2 Rushing Fall – Like the other two “top-flight” Brown entries, it’s really hard to find much fault with this filly. She has lost just once in her entire career, and she’s won four in a row coming into this one. Her front-end speed fits Saratoga extremely well, but she has also proven that she can sit off of the pace a bit if need be. This distance may be her only major question mark. There is no doubt that she can win going this far, as she has done it before, but can she beat the top horses in the crop doing it? That is the only concern.
#5 Secret Message – After two straight victories, it’s hard to find anything negative to say about her. Last time out, she picked up her second graded stakes score of her career, winning the Nassau Stakes (G2) at Woodbine. Now she must step up in class in a big way, which is why it is hard to see her actually winning here. However, the pace setup should give her an honest shot at hitting the board at a decent price.
NONE – This one feels straight-forward. One of the three above-mentioned Brown entries should win.
#3 Mitchell Road – This race may have a short field, but it is absolutely stacked with great horses. A race like this forces you to throw out a horse that has won four straight, including the Gallorette Stakes (G3) last time out at Pimlico. It’s obvious that she is in top form coming into this event, but she will be hard to play as she faces the top horses in the division.
#1 Thais – It looks like she has been put into the race in order to make the pace honest. Brown has three legitimate win candidates in this spot, but this one hasn’t been able to run against these kinds of horses throughout her career. She’ll only play a factor on the front end during the early stages.