Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown brought a quartet of talented fillies to the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Stakes on Saturday, with the undefeated Bleecker Street looking to pounce upon a hot pace set by stablemate In Italian.
But In Italian’s course-record performance proved too much for even her talented stablemates as she and jockey Joel Rosario led every step of the way to give Brown his seventh victory in the nine-furlong Mellon turf test for older fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.
“I’m just so lucky to have so many great horses in the division,” said Brown. “When you can work them together and put them into different situations in their morning drills, I can really see when they’re in peak form and I can identify their preferred way to run.”
Owned by Peter Brant, the daughter of Dubawi was making her seventh start for Brown and arrived from a game third-place effort behind stablemate Regal Glory in the Just a Game (G1) on June 10 at Belmont Park. The Diana was the first Grade 1 triumph for In Italian, whose previous best score was in the Grade 3 Honey Fox in March at Gulfstream Park.
In Italian broke sharply from the outermost post 6 under Rosario and sprinted to the front of the compact field, while the Brown-trained Technical Analysis flashed speed, but was held tightly by Jose Ortiz and taken back to fourth as the field rounded the first turn over the firm going.
In Italian marked an opening quarter-mile in 22.45 seconds while Creative Flair skimmed the rail in second with Dalika a half-length back in third. It was a long gap behind Technical Analysis to Rougir and post-time favorite Bleecker Street, who bided her time under patient handling from Irad Ortiz Jr. through a half-mile in 45.83.
Dalika and Creative Flair could not keep up with In Italian’s quick fractions up front and faded in the turn whilst Technical Analysis was full of run from fourth, quickly overtaking second from her fading rivals and looming to the outside of In Italian. Ortiz got to work on Bleecker Street, but was left with considerable ground to make up as In Italian and Technical Analysis moved away from their rivals in the stretch.
In Italian kept finding more under steady urging from Rosario, turning back the challenge from Technical Analysis and completing the race in 1:45.06 for a new course record. Bleecker Street suffered her first career defeat ffrom eight starts, finishing 1 1/2-lengths behind Technical Analysis, holding onto show honors by a neck over Rougir. Dalika and Creative Flair completed the order of finish.
Brown, who trained the top three finishers, said he knew In Italian was sitting on a big performance after showing her mettle against her multiple Grade 1-winning workmate Regal Glory in the mornings.
“We had a plan. She was training super in the morning. She’s been the lead horse in the works for Regal Glory two or three weeks in a row at Belmont,” said Brown. “I’ve been so impressed with her not letting Regal Glory by her, who I regard as the top mare in the division just slightly over Bleecker Street. So, her not letting her by in the work and finishing up right on even terms and not giving an inch showed me that’s really the way she wants to run, and she’s ready for a top effort.”
Rosario, who rode In Italian for the first time, said the filly ran her race with ease.
“It looked like she had the speed on paper. It looked like there were other horses with speed too on paper, but Chad told me to let her break and go on into the first turn and she put herself forwardly placed,” said Rosario. “She was nice and relaxed in front and ran a big race.
“It looked like she was going very easy. It looked like she was enjoying everything and it was easy for her,” Rosario added. “She was able to turn loose going for home and just took off again.”
Brown said that while confident In Italian would give a good account of herself, he was still expecting Bleecker Street and Rougir to come running at the end.
“I was looking toward the rear. I know Technical Analysis was in a cozy spot, but I figured the two horses chasing her couldn’t sustain in their form,” said Brown. “I felt good about Technical Analysis maybe getting a jump on Rougir and Bleecker Street, but sure enough In Italian found another gear, much like she has in the mornings recently.”
Brant, who also owns Bleecker Street and co-owns Rougir with Michael Tabor, said he had faith In Italian would deliver.
“I just think she’s a terrific filly and she wouldn’t be in here if we didn’t think she had the ability to win,” said Brant. “The instructions to Joel were ride this race like you can win, not just for pace, and he did it.”
Jose Ortiz, who rode Technical Analysis, echoed Rosario’s praise for the way In Italian rebroke, but added that his mount gave it her best.
“She was a little keen going into the first turn. Other than that, she relaxed well after. I came home running. I’m very proud of my horse,” said Ortiz. “She ran an amazing race. I’m very proud of her. She got beat by a horse than ran very hard and went fast early and re-broke. That’s very hard to do, but In Italian did it.”
Brown added that he was pleased to see four of his top turf fillies prove their class out on the track.
“They separate each other when you run them together. My approach is, I would rather run them against each other and settle it on the track than start to cherry pick who’s running and who’s not and a bunch of “What Ifs” if I ran the one I didn’t run,” said Brown. “I like to run the horses against each other, settle it out on the track, and this day it worked out this way. We’ll see if they meet in the future and maybe someone turns the tables, we’ll see.”
Bred in Great Britain by Fairway Farm, In Italian was purchased by Brant as a yearling for over $600,000 at the 2019 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale and is out of the Australian Group 3-winner Florentina. She boasts a perfect on-the-board record of 7-4-2-1 and total purse earnings of $591,220. The longest odds of Brown’s four runners at 8-1, In Italian returned $18.60 for a $2 win wager.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the $175,000 Quick Call (G3) in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. EST.