Appleby's Pair Look Formidable: Preview of Saturday's Diana Stakes (G1) @Saratoga

Trainer Charlie Appleby invades NYRA once again with a pair of formidable turf routers on the first Saratoga Saturday of the Meet. See which one J.N. Campbell likes in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes ...
Trainer Charlie Appleby invades NYRA once again with a pair of formidable turf routers on the first Saratoga Saturday of the Meet. See which one J.N. Campbell likes in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes ...

1 1/8th (Turf), Diana Stakes (G1), Purse $500k, F&M 4+

The Diana Stakes represents an early “Graded” go on the Saratoga Turf Course. Older females will be routing through, as they seek the opportunity to notch their first G1 victory. In the recent past, this race has served as a major opportunity for some to use this race as a stepping stone to even more success. In 2015, Christophe Clement won this race with a fabulous runner appropriately named Hard Not to Like. That was the last time that a trainer, other than Chad Brown, won this race. Brown’s hegemony has ruled over the Diana with power and finesse entries like Dacita (CHI), Lady Eli, Sistercharlie (IRE) 2x, and last year’s victor, Rushing Fall. Will Brown do it again this time around?

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 La Signare (FR) (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: B. Walsh):

Brendan Walsh’s mare out of French sire Siyouni continues to be surprisingly consistent. Last out, in the Gamely S. (G1) at Santa Anita back in May, she was just late to the wire … not able to catch long shot Maxim Rate. Her conditioner continues to send her into hostile environments, which have included Keeneland, Tampa, and even Belmont over this past year. Madaket always invests in a great product, and it will be interesting to see how she does @the SPA. I don’t think she is a runner that I could place in the Top 3, but I could be wrong.

Grade: C+


#2 Pocket Square (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: C. Brown):

Like many ‘cappers, I was pretty high on this Juddmonte homebred going into the Just A Game S. (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Before I even followed the tote that day, I knew the filly was going to get bet down severely. The daughter of Night of Thunder (IRE) was attempting to make the jump from ALLW Co. into the depths of a G1. It didn’t happen—finished 5th. Back at it in the Diana (G1), the challenge is the added distance. The last time in York that she faced a longer route, she ended up in last place. Under Brown, there is no doubt she is talented, and she has the ability to take a step forward with Johnny V riding. It will not be easy though …

Grade: B-


#3 Magic Attitude (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: A. Delacour):

Trainer Arnaud Delacour has a “streaky shooter” on his hands. This filly out of the recently deceased super sire Galileo (IRE) has a penchant for running well on the grass then … well … not. If she could somehow harness that effort from Belmont on Derby Day, then she could dominate this field. The problem is it looks like she needs the proper trip, with enough pace to run into. Her current fitness is looking strong, and I think she gets a rider upgrade with Javier Castellano. Her skills are complete … this is a matter of establishing consistency.

Grade: B


#4 Vigilantes Way (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: S. McGaughey):

The boldness of Shug McGaughey is always a welcome sight in a turf race because you know he is going to enter a runner with lots of capability. This Phipps filly though seems to be reaching a bit far even after a couple of impressive runs in the Galorette (G3) at Pimlico and the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth. I am sure she can get this distance, but the class jump may just be too much of an ask. Jose Ortiz has been riding well as of the Belmont Meet, so you never know when he is involved. Much respect for this conditioner, as he just continues to prove his mettle and ability to get them ready.Grade: C+

#5 Harvey’s Lil Goil (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):

Here is another member of a celebrated barn that was awfully good last year. The daughter of American Pharoah came back in the Beaugay (G3), and she promptly won in fine fashion. Stepping up in the New York S. (G2) she didn’t get the tracking trip she needed, finishing 5th. Mott has her positioned for a comeback race, but it will not be a cinch. Junior Alvarado understands her tendencies, so that works in her favor, but she is really going to have to run her best race, in order to keep up with this crowd. With a strong set of works under her, she could offer a surprise if you are game to back her.

Grade: C+


#6 Summer Romance (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: C. Appleby):

Much to like with this grass specialist … you have a Charlie Appleby-trainee who is owned by the global hegemonic stable of Godolphin. I was pretty convinced that her U.S. debut in the Just A Game (G1) would be a signature win for her. But alas, her stablemate (who draws in against her, once more) Althiqa #8 was better. How Mike Smith got her up in time is beyond me, but they had a similar bout in Dubai earlier in the year, with the same result. Still, this runner is incredibly impressive, and I am sticking with her versus this Diana (G1) field. Luis Saez has the ability to get her out early, and maybe with a commanding pace up front (if she is not challenged), she can win the day. Certainly possible …

Grade: A


#7 Lemista (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

Repeat? Hmm … The lone Chad Brown entry is this Peter Brant-owned filly out of Raven’s Pass. Brant brought her over after she spent a season running at places like Naas, Gowan Park, and The Curragh in Ireland. She fared well, except in the final race she entered, which was a G2 1¼ race over good ground. She can handle some moisture, and probably is quite used to it. With Irad Ortiz aboard, she placed in the Beaugay (G3) just behind Mott’s entry here. There is no question that she is dangerous in a spot like this one, and I would imagine that Brown will have her on her toes. Her grass workouts with the “dogs” out look promising as well over at Belmont. Tough customer … could give her conditioner yet another win in this race.

Grade: B+


#8 Althiqa (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: C. Appleby):

As I briefly mentioned, Mike Smith got this one home for trainer Charlie Appleby just in the nick of time on the Belmont Stakes undercard. It was a stellar ride for a HOF-er who doesn’t compete in many turf races these days. Now, this daughter of Dark Angel (IRE) is coming to the SPA, looking for more “Graded” glory. With Manny Franco in the saddle, taking over for Smith, she is going to be up against her stablemate once more. We could have another titanic finish on our hands, if history is our guide. I am thinking this distance will be a bit of a challenge compared to the Just A Game (G1), which was a mile. In the end, this is a very accomplished pair for Appleby, as he continues to prove why he is one of the best conditioners on the planet.

Grade: B+


Join us Saturday for all of our Saratoga selections! Should be a great set of races from the SPA!