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Zagora Gets First US Win in Diana

Zagora (no. 4), ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Chad Brown, wins the 73rd running of the grade 1 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares three years old and upward on July 30, 2011 at Saratoga Race Track in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)
Trainer Chad Brown picked up his first Grade 1 win in stylish fashion, sending out Zagora to a come-from-behind victory in the $500,000 Diana on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, his home track.


Making her fifth start in the United States and fourth for Brown, Zagora raced in midpack behind slow fractions of 50.31 and 1:14.02, was put to task at the top of the stretch by jockey Javier Castellano, claimed the lead with the furlong left, and drew clear to take the race for fillies and mares by 1 ½ lengths over Aruna.


Zagora, the 5-1 fourth choice in the field of nine, paid $13.60 for a $2 win wager and completed 1 1/8 miles over “good” turf in 1:49.19.


Brown, who hails from nearby Mechanicville and trains Zagora for Martin Schwartz, had never won a graded stakes at Saratoga prior to today. In 2009, Brown won Saratoga’s ungraded John Hettinger with Maram, who had given Brown his first Breeders’ Cup victory the previous year in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.


“Saratoga has been good to me,” said Brown. “We point for this meet every year, and we’re going to continue to.”


The Diana was a favorite of his mentor, the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who won it in 2001 with Starine and in 2002 with Tates Creek.


“[Frankel] loved the Diana, and we won it a couple of times when I worked for him,” said Brown, who worked as an assistant to Frankel before he struck out on his own in 2007.


The Diana was also a lifetime best for Zagora, who entered the race off four second- or third-place finishes in graded stakes since being shipped to the United States from her native France, where she was a Group 3 winner. She entered the Diana off a head defeat in the Grade 2 New York at Belmont Park on June 25.


“She had been knocking on the door and she had been a little unlucky, but one thing Bobby [Frankel] told me was, ‘Go back to the European form and see who they were running with. It’s a good measure of how much ability they have,’” said Brown. “She was running with very good horses in Europe, so it was just a matter of time for her to fully acclimate over here, maybe get lucky with a trip, [and] find the ground she liked. Everything came together today.”


Zagora, a 4-year-old daughter of Green Tune, is 5-4-2 from 13 starts, with $676,522 in career earnings, including the $300,000 winner’s share of the Diana purse.


The Diana was the first graded stakes victory of the day for jockey Javier Castellano, who later won the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy aboard Stay Thirsty.


“[Zagora] broke a little bit slow, but I tried to rush a little bit, put her in the game and on the first turn, I got my position and that’s where I wanted to be,” said Castellano. “I saved all the ground in the first turn and turning for home I saw horses start backing up a little bit. I went around the two front-running horses and when I asked her, it was unbelievable. She’s a really small filly, but she’s got good heart. When I asked her she took off and she gave me a good kick.”


Bay to Bay finished third, a neck behind the runner-up, and she was followed home by Mekong Melody, Aviate, Dyna Waltz, favored Unbridled Humor, Justaroundmidnight, and Giants Play. Romacaca was scratched.




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