It Was Hard Not to Like the Diana

July 27, 2015 07:55am
Hard Not to Like Diana 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA Photo


The $500,000 TVG Diana (G1) had a very strong field of graded stakes victors and the winner was hard hot to like. Of course, I’m not just talking about the fact that the winner has been in great form for her new trainer Christophe Clement, but that the six-year-old mare that crossed the finish line first, goes by the name of Hard Not to Like.


Hard Not to Like was coming into the Diana off a victory in the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita in May. Clement brought the daughter of Hard Spun back to Belmont Park to prepare for the Diana. With back-to-back grade one wins and Lady Eli sidelined with laminitis, Hard Not to Like moves up near the top Female Turf division.


The race began with the expected brisk pace. Kitten’s Queen bounced right out of the gate to the lead followed by Tepin. Jockey Joel Rosario let the speedy My Miss Sophia settle in third place a couple lengths behind Kitten’s Queen. After the first quarter went in 23.54 Rosario let his horse draw even with Tepin. The half-mile was 47.20 and My Miss Sophia moved into second position by herself as 1:10.15 was clocked for the first six furlongs.


All the while Hard Not to Like was far behind the leaders at the front of the pack of the four late runners. The big gap of 12 lengths behind the pacesetters looked almost insurmountable.


My Miss Sophia tried to make a move to get by the leader, but it was Tepin that was able to do so. The early pace had taken its toll on the Tepin and Kitten’s Queen were struggling after the mile went in 1:33.20.


Hard Not to Like still had more than five lengths to make up in the final furlong, but Jockey John Velazquez set her down the middle of the homestretch and she responded. As Tepin and Kitten’s Queen continued to battle, Hard Not to Like reached the two of them right at the wire and was able to get her nose in front.


Clement commented on his chances when his horse was so far back, “At the eighth pole to get a place pretty good, but to win slim. The last 50 yards suddenly I got a bit excited because I thought, "She’s going to get there!"


“Remarkable ride from Johnny Velazquez,” Clement continued. “We knew there was going to be decent amount of pace. The ground is firm, and they never came back. They went fast to the end.”


They did go very fast indeed. The final time of 1:45.22 was announced as a new course record by race caller Larry Collmus.


Velazquez talked about Hard Not Like, "This horse is much better now and is only improving. As the distance of the races got longer the better the horse became. The horse is a little small and doesn't have the speed to stay with the other horses in the first part of the race. The longer the race went on, the longer the horse's strides became."


The Diana victory was the fourth for Hall of Fame rider Velazquez having won previously in 1995 on Perfect Arc, 2001 on Starine, and in 2005 with Sand Springs. Clement got his second Diana win to go with a 2003 score with Voodoo Dancer.


Sent off at odds of 6-1, Hard Not to Like paid $14.40, 5.90, 4.70. For the owners Speedway Stables LLC, it was hard not to like that the $300,000 share of the purse allowed their mare to become a millionaire with a career record of 20: 8-3-2 for $1,261,671. 


 

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Meet Matt Shifman



Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.



You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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