Mean Mary tried to beat 7-5 favorite Rushing Fall by beating her to the lead in Sunday’s $485,000 Diana Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, but the e Five Racing Thoroughbreds star – and her Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano – simply went to Plan B and stalked. Wearing down her stubborn foe late, Rushing Fall gave trainer Chad Brown his fifth consecutive victory in the Diana, and record sixth overall.
Brown’s two-time defending champion Sistercharlie closed for third in circumstances that favored forward types. Although she’s lost both of her starts this campaign, Brown is retaining faith in Sistercharlie. And she did turn the tables on the two who finished ahead of her in the July 25 Ballston Spa (G2), Starship Jubilee and Call Me Love who were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Diana quintet.
The flip-side of Brown’s success is the series of heartbreaks suffered by trainer Graham Motion in the Diana. Mean Mary joins a list that includes near-missers Sweet Talker (2006), Shared Account (2010), Quidura (2017), and Ultra Brat (2018).
Motion’s misfortune this time began with the late scratch of his other runner, Secret Message, who reared up in the gate. Once they went without her, the 2-1 Mean Mary motored past Rushing Fall to set fractions of :23.60, :48.38, and 1:11.90 on the firm inner turf.
The top two spurted beyond recall into the stretch. Mean Mary dug in on the inside, but Rushing Fall was inexorable. Spotting her four pounds, Rushing Fall still willed her way to a neck decision in a brisk 1:45.88 for 1 1/8 miles. That was just a tick or so off Criminologist’s 1:45.61 course record from 2007.
“The plan was to go to the lead,” Castellano said. “I broke out of the gate and tried to send to dictate the pace, but Mean Mary never took up and tried to take the lead. I tried to ride smart, it’s a mile and an eighth and I thought it was smarter to save something for the end. Today, we were very fortunate.
“I rode her like she was the best filly in the race. She’s very tactical. She doesn’t have to be on the lead, she can come from behind also, but I didn’t see much other speed in the race, so we tracked the other filly every single step of the way and when I asked her, she responded. She knows how to win. I’m so lucky to ride her because she’s one of the best fillies I’ve rode in my life.”
Rushing Fall, who was runner-up to Sistercharlie in the 2019 edition, was racking up her sixth career Grade 1 laurel and 10th graded stakes overall. The More Than Ready mare’s other marquee wins include the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1); 2018 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1); 2019 Just a Game (G1); and the past two runnings of the Jenny Wiley (G1), most recently repeating in a 1 1/16-mile course-record 1:39.02 at Keeneland. Her resume reads 14-11-2-0, $2,553,000.
Brown paid tribute to her longevity at the top level:
“She knows how to win. She’s a remarkable horse. This is a horse that has won Grade 1s in four straight years. This is very rare company to do this. She’s a horse of a lifetime for anybody – for an owner, for a trainer, for racing. We’re very fortunate that (owner) Bob Edwards put her back in training. Her last race of the year last year was not good, she’s worth a lot of money and they could easily have sold her and bred her. They gave her the time off and we sent her down to Stonestreet in Ocala like we do every winter where they do a fantastic job and then my team got a hold of her and took it from there. They executed like they always have, and the filly really came through. She’s special.”
Stablemate Sistercharlie, the other 124-pound co-highweight, clocked her final eighth in a field-best :11.51 (according to Trakus) to finish 2 1/2 lengths back. Brown is looking ahead to her main objective, another tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
“I thought she took a nice step forward towards the Breeders’ Cup today,” Brown said. “This course is very speed-favoring. It’s hard to imagine a scenario, no matter what the pace is, where she is going to be able to make up that much ground. It’s just the way it’s played all meet.
“I can see her rounding into form right at the right time. I was disappointed that she wasn’t right there at the wire but not discouraged that can’t get on track for the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a good step forward.”