First Grade 1 of Saratoga 2015: TVG Diana Preview

July 25, 2015 01:52pm
My Miss Sophia wins 2014 Gazelle.
Photo: David Alcosser, NYRA

It’s almost upon us! Time for the racing world to celebrate all that is Saratoga once again. History, great racing, passionate fans, and the picture perfect setting of Saratoga Springs -- the Spa has it all. The 2015 season kicks off with a pair of graded stakes tomorrow, but Saturday welcomes in the first Grade 1 of the meet, with the nine furlong, $500,000 TVG Diana. As seven horse fields go, this is a very good one. Let’s take a look at the field from the hedge out ...

1. Tepin -  After a very promising juvenile season, the Machmer Hall bred filly struggled through a disappointing sophomore season. That’s all behind her now, as she has absolutely come on gangbusters in 2015. She’s 3-for-3 after returning from a seven month sabbatical, and the daughter of Bernstein has been getting it done against very good competition. Her tactical speed is in her favor, and she only seems to be getting better with each start. She will not be my top selection, because of the rail draw, and the extra furlong in the Diana, but on the other hand, I would not argue with anyone who thinks she is the one to beat.

2. Stephanie’s Kitten - Talk about knocking on the Diana door; in 2013 she surged late to finish third, beaten a mere half-length. Last year, the Kitten purred in the prestigious Saratoga turf affair, only to be turned away, just barely, by a determined Somali Lemonade. So you’re telling me she is due, right? Maybe, but if you have been betting Stephanie’s Kitten the last few years, you have lived through many losses at low odds. Just like the filly above her, this mare is full of class, and absolutely can win this, but at the expected lowish odds, I am willing to let her prove to me that she can actually win the Diana once and for all. One thing in her favor on Saturday, there should be a solid early pace for her to run at created by, among others, her stablemate.

3. Kitten’s Queen - The aforementioned stablemate of Stephanie’s Kitten ran a lifetime best last time, when she begrudgingly gave way to finish a close up third in the New York Handicap. A repeat of that effort gives her a chance, but honestly, as the least classy of this strong field of seven, she is probably best as a table setter for her more accomplished barnmate.

4. Hard Not to Like - What a well named race mare Hard Not to Like is. Once upon a time, the gray daughter of Hard Spun seemed to be falling short of all her potential. This is clearly no longer true. She’s finished first in four of her last five races, including her most recent victory in the Grade 1 Gamely at Santa Anita. Striking while the iron is hot, and the mare is healthy, the crafty Christophe Clement brings her back East for a shot at another Grade 1 on Saturday. While this might be the toughest test of the six-year-old’s career, a Diana win is definitely within her capability. She should sit a good trip off a solid early pace, and with her obvious nose for the wire, she could get the jump on the other ralliers.

5. Waltzing Matilda - Beware the well bred Irish filly. Perhaps that statement was better served to have come before the New York Handicap, where she surprised at 22-1 on June 5 in her United States debut. Can she do it again in an even tougher spot? It is possible, but I am willing to take a stand against. Most of her best running has been done at longer distances, and I worry that some of these other very good late runners will have a sharper punch at the nine furlong distance.

6. My Miss Sophia - She will be my top pick. I love sons and daughters of Unbridled’s Song moving to turf, and clearly this one relished the grass in her first try when she dominated an allowance field on Belmont Stakes weekend. I thought the performance was even more impressive in person than it may look on paper, and the nine furlong romp looks pretty good on paper. Despite the presence of Kitten’s Queen and Tepin, I think she has the natural speed to clear the field early, and then play a talented game of catch me if you can. If one of those do want to go fast early, she has also shown the ability to stalk and pounce, as well. I was a little surprised to see her chosen as the lukewarm favorite on the morning line, but I cannot imagine her too low against this salty field.

7. Lady Lara - At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is another talented turf filly with a chance to win on Saturday. The Irish-bred, Bill Mott trainee won two stakes in her first three attempts in the States, before finishing fourth behind Tepin in her last pair. Those two losses should afford attractive odds in the Diana, and with a solid pace, smaller field, and extra furlong all in her favor, Lady Lara figures to be in the mix as the strong field hunkers down for an exciting final furlong. She cannot be dismissed.


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Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

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A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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