Diana Stakes Quick Picks
The $500,000 Diana Stakes is the first of 20 Grade 1 events of the 2021 Saratoga meet.
The 1 1/8-mile turf event attracted eight accomplished older fillies and mares, including three who are making their second start in North America. Although the Diana Stakes isn’t a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, some of these elite turf mares may show up in the Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar.
Trainer Chad Brown has won the last five editions of the Diana and has stood in the winner’s circle a total of six times. This year, he has hopefuls, Lemista and Pocket Square.
LEMISTA (5-2) is the strongest of the pair. She captured four straight races in Ireland, two of them group stakes. In her first North American start in the 1 1/6-mile Beaugay, Lemista just missed the victory by a half-length to Harvey’s Lil Goil, who she’ll face again in the Diana. This Chad Brown trainee has a couple of solid works at Belmont, and with her pace-pressing style, she can get the jump on the one-run closers, especially since she gets more ground to work with. Win Contender.
The stablemates ALTHIQA (3-1) and SUMMER ROMANCE (4-1) will renew their rivalry in the Diana Stakes after facing each other in four consecutive starts.
In their first North American start, Althiqa (3-1) came out on top in the one-mile Just a Game (G1), nipping Summer Romance at the wire by 3/4-length. However, Summer Romance bested Althiqa by 2 1/4-lengths the first time they stretched out. Althiqa gets a new partner in Manny Franco, as Mike Smith is riding at Del Mar. Luis Saez stays aboard Summer Romance.
Summer Romance could be the lone speed, which is always dangerous. Summer Romance is a win contender, while Althiqa is worth an underneath play.
Consider these long shots for the lower exotics.
VIGILANTES WAY (20-1) is worth a longshot look. She’s amazingly consistent and has finished out of the money only twice in twelve-lifetime starts. While her speed figures aren’t flashy and the Shug McGaughey filly is jumping up from a Grade 3 victory, Vigilantes Way is bred to handle longer distances, and she has tactical speed. Jose Ortiz returns to ride. He paired with Vigilantes Way to finish second in the Gallorette Stakes (G3). Live longshot.
LA SIGNARE (15-1) has improved her placing in all three starts this year. The 6-year-old mare was just a half-length shy of victory in the 1 1/8-mile Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita this year, and the Brendan Walsh trainee has won or placed in two of three starts at the distance. Mike Smith rode La Signare in the Gamely, but Ricardo Santana, Jr., who has been aboard before, gets the mount. Live longshot.
POCKET SQUARE (8-1) is the other Chad Brown trainee. She placed fifth, bested 4 3/4-lengths in the Just a Game (G1) behind Althiqa. To be fair, Pocket Square was coming off a monster win in her U.S. debut in an allowance race at Keeneland, and she had been away from the track since the previous July. Pocket Square swept five-wide to outclass her rivals in the Keeneland allowance race by 2 1/4-lengths, earning a 102 late-pace Brisnet figure. Brown gave Pocket Square a series of quick works at Belmont to sharpen her up. Pocket Square has never run 1 1/8-miles, but her one-run closing style should help her get the distance. She gets a new jock John Velazquez since previous rider Flavian Pratt is riding at Monmouth. Live longshot.