Happy Diana Day!
It was great to be back in the Saratoga grandstand this week and now we get the first Grade I of the meet, the Diana Stakes. The Grade III Sanford Stakes for two year olds sprinting on the dirt is the co-feature on Saturday.

The Sanford Stakes Race 9
Grade III | 6 Furlongs | Dirt | 2YR

July 17, 2021

This is a classic two year old stakes race at Saratoga – the horses entered here last ran at seven different tracks – from Belmont to Churchill Downs to Delaware Park and Parx.
The Sanford returns after a year hiatus as it was not run last year due to the 2020 COVID modified racing schedule. Jackie’s Warrior dominated these Spa stakes baby races last year winning both the Saratoga Special and the Hopeful. This year the traditional three dirt sprint race sequence for two year olds returns – The Sanford is followed by the Grade II Saratoga Special at 6 ½ furlongs on August 14th, and then the Grade I Hopeful at 7 furlongs on closing day.

The Runners

Wit: This Todd Pletcher trained runner was an impressive first out winner as the 2/5 favorite earning a 70 Beyer. He broke slowly and trailed the field but under vigorous hand riding by Jose Ortiz he proceeded to pass the entire field and then drew off. Draws a tough post down on the rail but has the benefit of pilot Irad Ortiz to guide him today. Live if he can work a trip from the rail. If he gets away in good order, he will be very tough.

Candy Landing: He won easily on debut at 17-1 by open lengths at Churchill last month. You will not get 17-1 today. He drew off after tracking the lead from the two path and looked to have more in the tank after going five and half furlongs. Brendan Walsh wins with 20% of his two year old starters over the past year. Certainly capable of the win off a 70 Beyer in debut.

Catch the Smoke: This Mohaymen colt won on debut in a Maiden Claiming race at Monmouth with a modest 53 Beyer. Mohaymen’s first crop has performed very well and are winning at a 40% clip in dirt sprints from a limited sample. Wayne Potts has good figures with his two year olds winning at 19%. This is a much tougher assignment and the second outing would need a significant fig improvement to best this group. Lasix comes off.

Trust Our Journey: This American Pharoah colt won first time out and then ran third of four runners in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont over a muddy strip where he attended the early pace. He will be shipping in from his Monmouth base for this one. Needs a significant improvement to win here.

Dance Code: Won at Parx by a neck and trainer Juan Vazquez ships this colt for a shot at this Grade III. Earned a very competitive 68 Beyer and will be stretching from four and half to six furlongs. Vazquez wins with less than 10% of two year olds and the move Parx to Saratoga is tough, but he is competitive on paper.

Maryland Brando: This $250,000 purchase ships in from Delaware Park for Gary Contessa after romping in his debut effort by over eleven lengths. He comes to this one off a bullet work at Delaware and Carol Cedeno follows from her Delaware Park base to ride. Contessa knows what it takes to win here in New York, but Maryland Brando is certainly facing much tougher than those in the first effort. Lasix comes off. A possible longshot underneath play.

Ottoman Empire: This Tom Amoss trained colt rallied from off the pace to collar the leader to win at first asking at Churchill Downs. The Beyer was 59 in his effort. He’ll need to go faster to win this, but is sired by Classic Empire whose first crop had been performing extremely well – winning at a 31% clip. Jose Ortiz is in the saddle for this one, switching from the Pletcher morning line favorite. Interesting. This one may be live at a price.

Due Vini: Kelly Breen brings this Monmouth based runner to Saratoga to tackle this group on the back of decent front end performance where he kept on going while under pressure. Treasure Beach wins with only 8% of first time 2 year old starters, so this one broke the mold a bit by winning first out. Trainer Kelly Breen is excellent with two year olds and wins with a 21% win clip over the past year. Lasix comes off. Possible underneath a big price.

Headline Report: This is a $550,000 Wesley Ward trained two year old has been on the shelf a bit since the April 23rd Keenland debut win. He has been working well in Kentucky and had a maintenance work over the Spa main track last week. The works are very good and Ward shipping him in indicates that Ward believes this runner is ready for this. Hal of Famer John Velazquez keeps the mount.

Kavod: Finished a decent second after the pace collapsed in the Tremont with a 62 Beyer. That was a four horse field and his fig only improved slightly from the second to third start. Could have an impact at a big price.

Seize The Night: Dallas Stewart brings this one in from Churchill where he has been working since his maiden win in mid-May. Sixty year old Jon Court retains the mount. How great is that – 60 year old Jon Court has the mount! Just nipped the second place runner in the debut and will need to show more to win here, tough post this far out. Not convinced, other than you have to route for the 60 year old jock!

Lucago: The outside horse ships in from Gulfstream after winning a Maiden Claimer fifteen days ago. This gelding seems up against it with the 12 hole draw, the short turnaround from the maiden win, and the ship from Florida. Pass.


The Diana Stakes Race 10
Grade I | 1 Mile & 1 Furlong | Inner Turf Course | Fillies and Mares | 4YR+

July 17, 2021

This is a great renewal of the Diana; you can make very strong cases for six of the eight runners.

Trainer Thoughts

Chad Brown has dominated the Diana like no other Saratoga stakes race by winning the last five editions of this race. He aims his horses for Saratoga and his runners are dangerous in almost every grass race, but his win percentage in grass stakes races is much lower in 2021 than in recent years. His performance in grass stakes races will be an interesting storyline to follow throughout the meet. Chad has two entered in this Grade 1 – Pocket Square and Lemista. Lemista looks to the more likely of the two to impact the outcome of the race.
Charlie Appleby doesn’t have the highest profile in the U.S., but his North American numbers are eye popping. He has entered 18 horses in North America since 2013 and has 33% win percentage — 61% of his starters have finished in the money. He has earned $3.2 million from those 18 starts. Granted it’s a small sample, but the races he has entered have been at the highest level. Appleby has two very good ones here today – Althiqa and Summer Romance, who swept the exacta in their North American debuts in the Grade I Just A Game.

The Runners

La Signare: This six year old has run a total of three times this year, getting a slice underneath in the last two outings. While she hits the board with regularity, she hasn’t won in seven starts over the past fifteen months. She’s capable, but doesn’t appear to have the finishing punch needed to win again a group like this. Possible underneath play if she picks up the pieces running on late.

Pocket Square: This Chad Brown filly crushed an allowance field back in April at Keenland but did not repeat that performance when she stepped up to Grade I company in the Just A Game at Belmont. In that race she didn’t have the necessary turn of foot in the stretch to make a meaningful move. She passed some tired horses but didn’t have an impact on the race. That Just a Game effort was the second start off a long layoff – is the third start back off the bench the key? I’ll take a wait and see approach. This is the “Other” Chad runner.

Magic Attitude: She did not appear to care for the yielding turf last time out in the New York Stakes and finished well back in seventh place even after getting a good inside trip. In the previous effort she won the Sheepshead Bay at eleven furlongs. At this point in her career she may want more than nine furlongs. The waters are pretty deep here, maybe too deep.

Vigilantes Way: This Phipps homebred is a consistent runner and her best career performance was in her most recent start in winning the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park. That win was a second off the layoff and she ran very well that day earning a career best 91 Beyer. She’ll most likely need to make another leap forward in her thirteenth career start to get the honors. Doesn’t seem likely.

Harvey’s Lil Goil: She has been a remarkably versatile horse for Bill Mott, and she has really blossomed since the connections started racing her exclusively on the turf. In her first race of this season she won the Grade 3 Beaugay while sitting close and pouncing, besting Lemista in the process. In the follow up in the New York Stakes she seemed to tire going 10 furlongs over a yielding course. She just ran out of gas and the boggy ground seemed to work against her. She cuts back to nine furlongs in this one (she is two for two at this distance) and she should sit a very nice trip here behind Summer Romance. Very dangerous if she runs back to either her Beaugay or 2020 Breeders’ Cup effort when she ran triple digit Beyers.

Summer Romance: This front running Godolphin filly performed very well for Charlie Appleby in her first U.S. start and was only bested by her rapidly closing stable mate. She kept on running and was in no danger of being caught by any of the other runners. She has won at nine furlongs before and has the staying power to be very competitive here. She needs to be loose on the lead – that’s her best chance for success. That scenario of course requires that she be allowed to run loose on lead. She can certainly turn the tables on Althiqa today, but she is going to be chased by some very good ones here.

Lemista: This Chad Brown trained filly ran well two months ago in her first stateside start in the Beaugay Stakes off a eight month layoff, earning a 100 Beyer. She sat in behind a slow pace and kicked on once she got in the clear, but Harvey’s Lil Goil got the jump on her and she wasn’t able to reel the winner in. With a better trip and a bit more distance (she is 2-2 at 9 furlongs) she could be right there. Also, if there is give in the ground it will move her forward as she won on tracks rated as yielding, soft and heavy in Ireland last year. Irad Ortiz stays aboard. This is the stronger half of the Chad Brown pair. Using.

Althiqa: Althiqa ran exceptionally well in the Just A Game to win her American debut earning a 101 Beyer. She came from off the pace and won making a move on the hedge to catch stable mate Summer Romance. She and Summer Romance have traded top honors in their three most recent races with Althiqa getting the better end of it twice. She is a versatile runner and nine furlongs shouldn’t be an issue although she hasn’t won going this far. Serious player to make it two in a row. The Pick.