By virtue of a customarily deep bench of older turf mares in his barn, trainer Chad Brown has Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1) at Saratoga surrounded.
A seven-time winner of the 1 1/8-mile test, Brown will saddle four of the five entrants, including 2022 winner In Italian. Eight horses in Diana history have won multiple runnings, the latest being the Brown-trained champion Sistercharlie in 2018-19.
As the likely controlling speed, In Italian figures to be hard to stop. Her current form is impeccable, too, as she’s dominated in both prior starts this season in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and Just a Game (G1). Her only loss since last year’s Diana was in the Breeders’ Cup, when she was worn down by the long-winded Tuesday going 1 3/16 miles in the Filly and Mare Turf (G1).
“She prefers to run right on the lead if she can get there. I think she’s able to stalk horses, too,” Brown said. “When she can create her own trips, she’s in much better form that way.”
It’s not unheard of for one of the lesser-backed Brown trainees to pop up and win the Diana, Zagora (2011) and Dacita (2016) being notable examples. Marketsegmentation, who enters off three consecutive stakes wins, including the 10-furlong New York (G1), figures to be the second choice.
“She’s won before off the pace and she can go to the front. She can do either, but in this race, I see her right off of it,” Brown said.
Further down in the market will be Whitebeam, a Juddmonte homebred who impressively captured the Gallorette (G3) at Pimlico in her second U.S. appearance, and the veteran performer Fluffy Socks, who posted a mild upset in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day.
The Diana is saved from being an intramural battle by the Mark Casse-trained Fev Rover, who is racing outside of Woodbine for the first time since her importation to North America. Fev Rover has won two of four starts on the continent, including an emphatic triumph over Canadian Horse of the Year Moira in the one-mile Nassau (G2) earlier this month.
The other grass feature on Saturday is the $175,000 Kelso (G3), a one-mile test for older horses formerly known as the Forbidden Apple.
The back class in the field includes Casa Creed, who captured the Fourstardave H. (G1) at the Spa last summer, and his Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) conqueror Annapolis. Casa Creed rallied for third in his title defense of the six-furlong Jaipur (G1) last out, while Annapolis opened his season account with a head score in the May 4 Opening Verse S. at Churchill.
There to ensure an honest pace for the protagonists among the field of nine are Big Everest, a stakes winner at Monmouth and Aqueduct in each of his last two starts, and the multiple Grade 2-winning Filo Di Arianna, recently a neck second in the Poker (G3).