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.
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
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
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
“[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.