SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Peter Brant’s superstar mare Sistercharlie made her 2019 debut with a bang, leading a Chad Brown-trained trifecta while successfully defending her title in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Breaking from post 4 under John Velazquez as the 9/5 second choice, Sistercharlie raced in mid-pack early while one of her other three stablemates, Thais, blitzed out to a considerable lead. Mitchell Road gave chase while Thais posted opening fractions of :22.10, :45.90, and 1:11.51.
Midway through the far turn, Velazquez tipped Sistercharlie out to run four-wide, and she responded gamely. Set down for the stretch drive, it became an all-out sprint between the top three Brown runners. Rushing Fall was able to get first run on a weakening Thais, but Sistercharlie and Homerique were not far behind.
Under only mild urging, Sistercharlie usurped Rushing Fall inside the final furlong marker, then drew away in the late stages to win the 1 1/8-mile event over the good inner turf course by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:47.93.
“She normally breaks slow,” Velazquez said. “I made sure to get her a nice position passing the wire for the first time, making sure that (Secret Message) didn’t put me in behind her. (Rushing Fall) was the one to beat, in my eyes, and once I was behind (her) and relaxed where I thought was in a good position, I bided my time a little bit. By the 3/8 pole, it was time to go, and I know she takes a bit to get going, so I’d rather go wide and get her going than to stay behind the other horses and not get there. It was a great effort by her.”
Sent postward as the 8/5 favorite, Rushing Fall was able to hold off the late rally from Homerique to take second by a neck. The rest of the field was much farther behind. Secret Message ultimately crossed in fourth after Mitchell Road and Thais fell off to complete the order of finish.
Sistercharlie’s win was her fourth straight at the Grade 1 level, having taken the Diana, the Beverly D. Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf last year. The 5-year-old daughter of Myboycharlie improved her record to 12-8-3-0 with $2,850,603 earned.
“Another great performance from a great mare,” said Brown, who has also won the Diana with Lady Eli (2017), Dacita (2016), and Zagora (2011). “She showed why she’s the best. Peter made the decision to come back and race her another year. He’s a great sportsman and he loves seeing this horse run. We were going to start her campaign a little earlier in the year and she got sick on us. We had to wait and he was very patient. She just hit all her works right leading up to this race.”
Sistercharlie returned $5.80 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.20 to show. Rushing Fall brought back $2.80 to place and $2.20 to show, while Homerique paid $2.30 to show.