July 18, 2024

Didia looks to halt Brown dominance in Diana; Mentee makes stakes debut in Sanford

Didia scored her first U.S. Grade 1 victory in the New York (Photo by Janet Garaguso/Coglianese Photos)

Didia enters Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1) at Saratoga off a signature victory in the New York (G1) over the same course five weeks ago, but as always, trainer Chad Brown is the one who the nine-furlong grass test for fillies and mares actually goes through.

Brown has won eight of the past 13 editions of the Diana, including seven of the past eight. He is loaded for bear again, entering half of the expected field of 10. However, bettors should keep in mind he’s often won with the lesser fancied of his entries.

A leading example is Whitebeam, who pulled off a 7-1 upset last year. Winless since that victory, Whitebeam enters off two close losses to Neecie Marie in the Beaugay (G3) and to stablemate Chili Flag in the Just a Game (G1). The latter might vie for favoritism having won three in a row.

Brown also relies on Coppice and Gina Romantica, both of whom have run below expectations in two starts this season, and the veteran Fluffy Socks, a dominant winner of the Gallorette (G3) at Pimlico last out against a modest field over very soft ground.

Didia, who kicked off her 2024 campaign with a win in the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G2), is now 2-for-3 on the season. The lone setback was a third to the loose-on-the-lead Beaute Chachee in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland.

In addition to the Argentinean-bred Didia, the Brown brigade, and Neecie Marie, the Diana field also includes former Canadian Horse of the Year Moira, who was last seen finishing third to Inspiral in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) last November. Multiple Grade 3 winner Mission of Joy was beaten only a half-length in the Just a Game last month and should appreciate the step up from a mile, while Grade 2 scorer Evvie Jets was only a neck farther back in fourth.

Mentee, a City of Light half-brother to last year’s juvenile champion Fierceness, will look to take another step toward earning a similar honor in the $175,000 Sanford (G3) over six furlongs. A heavy favorite in his debut at Aqueduct on June 15, Mentee opened up a five-length lead in midstretch before the margin was whittled down to a mere nose over Colloquial. Mentee will break from the rail in the eight-horse Sanford.

“I think he got a little bit idle on his own but was able to get the job done in a very fast time,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Sanford a record eight times. “I think the horse that was second is a high-quality horse as well, so I was pleased with his debut and very happy with the way he’s trained since then.

“You never prefer the one-hole, but so far he’s been a very good gate horse in the mornings and showed good speed in his debut,” Pletcher added. “Hopefully, he’s able to get away cleanly.”

The lone entrant with winning stakes form is Studlydoright, who posted a 13-1 upset of the June 6 Tremont S. over seven rivals, including Three Echoes. War Tax will look to rebound from a poor showing in the Bashford Manor S. after a troubled start, while Baby Dukes, Soontobeking, Mr. Squeaky Wheels, and Mo Plex all exit maiden victories.

Carl Spackler, who suffered her first defeat in three Saratoga attempts in last month’s Poker (G3), will look to rebound in the $175,000 Kelso (G3) against four others. His primary rivals in the one-mile grass test figure to be Mysterious Night and Talk of the Nation, who grabbed the minor placings in the Poker.

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