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Having won the prestigious turf test a record six times, including with champions Lady Eli , Sistercharlie [2018-19] and Rushing Fall , trainer Chad Brown holds the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Stakes in very high regard.
On Saturday, July 16, the four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner will saddle four talented runners in the nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares over the Mellon turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Brown, who earned his first Grade 1 victory in the 2011 Diana with Zagora, has been represented by at least two fillies in the race every year since 2013."It's been a race we've focused on for many years now since I opened my own stable. Once again, we have horses that belong in the race," said Brown.
Three of the fillies Brown will saddle this year are owned by Peter Brant, including undefeated Bleecker Street, who exits a half-length triumph in the 10-furlong Grade 1 New York on June 10 at Belmont Park.
Race 8 at Saratoga on Saturday, July 16 - Post 5:03 PM
|1||Technical Analysis (IRE)||3-1||Jose Ortiz
|2||Creative Flair (IRE)||8-1||Jamie Spencer
|3||Bleecker Street||6-5||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|4||Rougir (FR)||3-1||Flavien Prat
|5||Dalika (GER)||15-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.
|Albert Stall, Jr.|
|6||In Italian (GB)||6-1||Joel Rosario
Bleecker Street, who boasts a perfect 7-for-7 record, has shown improvement numbers wise in each of her starts. She earned a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure from her winning effort in the New York.
"She's developed beyond anyone's expectations, even mine," Brown said. "Every time I've asked her to do something, she's stepped up and done it. Every single one of her races has been a new challenge for her, and no matter the competition, distance or type of turf she's on at various racetracks, she keeps meeting the challenges.
"She runs faster numbers each time and is slowly getting better and stronger," he added. "You can't start your career any better than that, especially on turf, where you're so trip dependent and weather dependent. For her to start off winning seven straight is just remarkable."
Brown initially believed the 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road would find a home on dirt due to her pedigree, being out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Liqueur, who was stakes-placed on dirt.
"When we bought the horse, we really thought she was a dirt horse and it surprised me that she was training average on it," Brown said. "Normally, I get a better handle of what surface they'll be on when they first come into the barn. We tested her out on the turf hopeful, curious, and she ran super the first time.
"From there, it became a function of trying to develop her on turf when we could get it, separating other horses and such as we're doing it, and she just so happened to start that way," Brown added. "We liked her, but we just needed to see more because we definitely had a lens on dirt with her. I did for a long time, and she wasn't quite getting it done. She very much has an American dirt pedigree, so it was a bit of a surprise to me."
Bleecker Street has yet to make a dirt start. She debuted in August 2021 at Monmouth Park with a half-length victory before defeating winners at The Meadowlands two months later. Put on the shelf for the remainder of the year, she won her 4-year-old debut in an allowance optional claiming event at Tampa Bay Downs on January 8 before capturing the Grade 3 Endeavor and Grade 3 Hillsborough over the same track.
Brown said it was in Florida where he realized Bleecker Street's true potential.
"When I took her down to Florida she really started to blossom, and it became clear to me that this was a graded stakes level filly," Brown said. "It confirmed to me that she needs to be on track to run in Grade 1s because she had developed that much. As horses get older and change, they can go one way or another, and she went the right way."
Brown expressed no concern in cutting Bleecker Street back in distance from the New York.
"She has such a good turn of foot, that it doesn't seem to matter for her," Brown said. "I was more worried about the mile and a quarter with her going into the last one, so a mile and an eighth seems to be fine."
Irad Ortiz, Jr., who teamed up with Brown to win the Diana aboard Dacita  as well as Lady Eli, will pilot Bleecker Street from post 3.
Striving for redemption after a disappointing fifth as the favorite in the New York is Rougir, who is owned by Brant and Michael Tabor. Previously conditioned by Cedric Rossi in her native France, the 4-year-old Territories chestnut was a narrow winner of last year's Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp before finishing seventh when making her stateside debut in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf one month later at Del Mar.
Rougir was entered in the Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale and was purchased by Brant for nearly $3.4 million and transferred to Brown's stable. She made her debut for Brown a winning one in the Grade 3 Beaugay on May 14 at Belmont Park.
"Her first start was terrific and her second start she just didn't show up. Maybe the turf was too firm for her - she seems to prefer a softer ground," Brown said.
Brown also said it's possible he may have run Rougir back too quick.
"Every horse is different. [After] her first start in the country, she may have had a bit of a Euro bounce. In hindsight, exiting that race she seemed mentally a little unorganized," Brown said. "The weeks after that, she started to settle down and really trained focused and smooth. I put the pieces together that maybe she needed a little more time from the Beaugay and I'm hopeful that's the case."
Rougir will be piloted by Flavien Prat from post 4.
While a late-closing turn of foot is the best weapon for Bleecker Street and Rougir, Brown's other two Diana aspirants, Technical Analysis and In Italian, boast strong early speed.
Both fillies have won graded stakes over the turf in gate-to-wire fashion.
"I have to give both horses the opportunity to run. In Italian seems to be a faster horse than Technical Analysis," said Brown. "We'll see how it shakes out when they break."
Klaravich Stables' Technical Analysis captured the Grade 3 Gallorette on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course last out, registering a career-best 96 Beyer for her 3 1/4-length victory. The 4-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Kingman is 2-for-2 at the Spa, winning last year's Grade 3 Lake George and Grade 2 Lake Placid over the inner turf.
"She loves Saratoga, obviously. To win two turf stakes in the same meet at Saratoga is very hard to do, I don't care which two stakes they are," Brown said. "For her to win those two stakes as a 3-year-old here, that puts you in high regard. She clearly has an affinity not only for the track at Saratoga, but for the environment. She really loves it up here. She's in great form and she's here, so she deserves a chance to run in a Grade 1."
While she displayed frontrunning fashion in the Lake Placid, Technical Analysis did rate in the Lake George and Brown said he wouldn't mind seeing jockey Jose Ortiz use the same tactics for Saturday's race.
Technical Analysis will break from post 1.
Brant's In Italian, an English-bred Dubawi chestnut, enters off a third in the one-mile Grade 1 Just a Game on June 11, where she finished 4 3/4 lengths in arrears of stablemate and fellow Brant color-bearer Regal Glory.
Never off the board in six career starts, In Italian won the Grade 3 Honey Fox on March 5 at Gulfstream Park en route to a runner-up placing to another Brant-owned and Brown-trained turf distaffer in Speak of the Devil.
"She's been training super and as long as the turf is firm, she'll run," Brown said.
Joel Rosario will pilot In Italian from post 6.
English-based conditioner Charlie Appleby sent out the one-two finishers in last year's Diana in Althiqa and Summer Romance, replicating their exacta from the 2021 Just a Game. This time around Appleby returns from his Moulton Paddocks yard in Newmarket with Godolphin's Creative Flair.
The 4-year-old Dubawi bay arrived in New York on July 1 and trained at Belmont Park before shipping up to Saratoga on Tuesday to the care of Appleby's traveling assistant Chris Connett. She trained over the Saratoga main track on Wednesday.
"She had a canter around the main track this morning and will have a last blow-out tomorrow morning before Saturday," Connett said. "We're very happy with how she traveled over to Belmont. She's been training well."
Connet oversaw Creative Flair last summer at Saratoga when she closed to finish third in the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational.
"We probably walked away from it a little disappointed with the trip she got through the race, but it was her first proper trip away from the U.K., so it was all a learning experience and good to get under the belt which stands her in good stead for this year," said Connet.
Connet said Creative Flair has matured since last summer and enters Saturday's test from a prominent three-quarter length score in the Group 2 Balanchine in February at Meydan.
"She's strengthened, really. She's filled out a little bit more. She was lighter framed last year and now she's filled out and blossomed," Connett said. "The team is very happy with her and she's traveled up to Saratoga in good fettle."
Jamie Spencer will ship to Saratoga to pilot Creative Flair from post 2.
Completing the field is Bal Mar Equine's Dalika for trainer Al Stall, Jr. The German-bred daughter of Pastorious exits from a runner-up effort in her seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Mint Julep on June 5 at Churchill Downs.
A four-time stakes winner over three different racetracks, Dalika won last year's Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park in her lone graded conquest. She made the first of three Saratoga starts in August 2019 when a hard-fought second at 22-1 odds in the restricted Riskaverse over yielding turf.
Ricardo Santana, Jr. will ride from post 5.
The Diana is slated as Race 8 on Saturday's 11-race program, which features the Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford in Race 10. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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Bal Mar Equines' Dalika faces five competitors Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana at Saratoga Race Course. The longest shot in the race at 15-1, Dalika will break from post 5 in the 1 1/8-mile turf route for older fillies and mares for trainer Al Stall, Jr.
A daughter of Pastorius, the German-bred Dalika enters from a second-place finish in last month's Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep at Churchill Downs where she went immediately to the lead and tried to wire the field before being caught late by Gam's Mission. It was the 6-year-old mare's first race of her 2022 campaign.
"She had a freshening for the winter in Camden, South Carolina, and came back to run a nice race in the Mint Julep," said Stall, Jr. "We kept her training as a 6-year-old just trying to participate and hit the board or get lucky in a Grade 1."
The gray filly notched two wins last year, including the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park. She finished fifth in her lone start at Saratoga last summer in the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls.
"She's been right on the schedule we mapped out for her. She does well up here and is happy up here and tries every time," Stall, Jr. said. "She will be forwardly placed and she'll take them as far as she can take them and hopefully we just get lucky."
Dalika will have to travel an extra sixteenth of a mile in Saturday's Diana versus what she was tasked with in the Old Forester Mint Julep. Ricardo Santana, Jr. will be in the irons once again.
A competitive renewal of the Diana will see trainer Chad Brown saddle four horses, including the undefeated Bleecker Street; while Charlie Appleby has sent over Creative Flair from Europe.
Stall, Jr. said the steep opposition won't be cause for changing his approach to the race.
"She's a horse that you can't fight. We've gotten into tussles with her before and it doesn't work," Stall, Jr. said. "We just let her bounce away from there and she just keeps going. We're not going to change much. They might have to change if they want to, but we have to go because if we get into a war with her trying to slow her down, she gets resentful and doesn't run her best race."
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