Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will send out Lemista and Pocket Square in Saturday’s 83rd renewal of the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana as he looks to secure his sixth consecutive win in the nine-furlong inner-turf test for older fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.
Brown captured the first of his record six Diana wins in 2011 with Zagora and has enjoyed success in the last five editions with Dacita , Lady Eli , Sistercharlie [2018-19] and Rushing Fall .
A former assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, himself a two-time Diana winner, Brown spoke about his affinity for the prestigious race on a recent episode of the Across the Board with Andy Serling podcast.
“We’ve had enormous success with it; I’m lucky. We’ve had the right horses,” said Brown. “It’s a real honor to have that level of success looking back at five Dianas in a row. These are the [types of] races Frankel would point towards.”
Brown will saddle Lemista, a 4-year-old daughter of Raven’s Pass, for three-time Diana winning owner Peter Brant, who campaigned Sistercharlie [2018-19] and Just a Game  to Diana scores.
Lemista earned a 100 Beyer in her North American debut in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Beaugay on May 8 at Belmont, finishing a late-closing second to Diana-rival Harvey’s Lil Goil.
The Irish-bred dark bay, previously trained by Ger Lyons, captured the Group 2 Kilboy Estate three starts back at the Curragh over yielding going.
Lemista has trained extensively on the Belmont inner turf following the Beaugay, posting eight works dating back to May 22, including a five-furlong effort in 1:01.80 on Sunday in company with Pocket Square [1:01.89].
“She’s a top class filly. I have high hopes for her,” Brown said. “We’ve been pointing for this race for a while and I’m excited to get to it. I think that the time has done her well. She’s been working consistently well.”
Juddmonte Farms’ Pocket Square, a Group 3 winner at Deauville in October 2019 for former trainer Roger Charlton, rallied to an impressive allowance win in her North American debut on April 7 at Keeneland.
Brown said Pocket Square, by Night of Thunder, missed a breeze heading into her even fifth last out as the lukewarm favorite in the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game, a one-mile jaunt over good turf on June 5 at Belmont.
“She missed her last work with the storms that came through and maybe the soft-ish turf didn’t help,” said Brown. “I really thought she was lined up really well going into the Just a Game and I was hopeful she could overcome, but things just didn’t work out. She’s come back and worked really super, so I’m drawing a line through it and going right back at another Grade 1 with her.”
Despite good form over soft going in Europe, Brown said he would prefer firmer footing for Pocket Square.
“I know she ran well in Europe that way [on good-firm ground], but I think she’s more effective on a firm turf course from what I’ve seen in her training,” said Brown.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will also look to extend his Diana win record to seven, piloting Pocket Square from post 2, while Irad Ortiz, Jr. will guide Lemista from post 7.
Trainer Charlie Appleby enjoyed a one-two finish with 4-year-old Godolphin fillies Althiqa and Summer Romance in the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game.
The Godolphin greys have squared off in their last three starts, dating back to the one-mile Group 2 Cape Verdi in January at Meydan won by Althiqa, a British homebred by Dark Angel. Summer Romance turned the tables on Althiqa in the nine-furlong Group 2 Balanchine in February at Meydan.
In their North American debuts, Summer Romance, an Irish-bred daughter of Kingman, set a sharp pace under Luis Saez, but could not stay off the late run of Althiqa under Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Both fillies remained at Belmont following the Just a Game, breezing extensively on the Belmont inner turf before shipping upstate to Saratoga on Monday.
Summer Romance, who won the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth at Epsom last July, will exit post 6 under Saez, while Althiqa, who boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 10-5-2-3, will be piloted by Manny Franco from post 8.
The Estate of Harvey A. Clarke and Paul Braverman Harvey’s Lil Goil will look to give Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his fifth Diana win.
Mott, who last won the Diana in 2010 with Proviso, captured three straight editions with Sand Springs, Angara and My Typhoon from 2005-07.
A 4-year-old American Pharoah grey, Harvey’s Lil Goil enjoyed a remarkable sophomore campaign, winning the Grade 3 Regret at nine furlongs over firm Churchill Downs turf last June ahead of a game third in the 10-furlong Alabama on the Saratoga main track.
The versatile filly completed her 3-year-old year with a pair of Grade 1 turf starts at Keeneland, including a win in the nine-furlong Queen Elizabeth II Cup in October over good going and a closing third in the 1 3/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf over firm footing in November.
A prominent winner of the Beaugay in her seasonal debut on May 8 on good Belmont turf, Harvey’s Lil Goil was an even fifth last out in the 10-furlong Grade 2 New York contested on yielding Belmont turf on June 4.
“It was very soft ground,” said Mott of the New York effort. “Some of our stakes have been run on really soft ground and it could have worked against her a little bit.”
Mott said a turnback in distance as well as the tighter turns of the Saratoga inner turf should benefit Harvey’s Lil Goil.
“That [cutting back] won’t hurt her I don’t think,” said Mott. “She’s run well on that type of oval previously. She won the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland and she ran good in the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland and that’s a tight turf course, so I don’t think that will hurt her.”
Harvey’s Lil Goil has recorded four works since the New York, including a five-furlong effort in 1:00.12 on the Oklahoma dirt training track on July 9.
“She couldn’t be doing any better,” said Mott.
Junior Alvarado retains the mount from post 5.
Lael Stables’ Magic Attitude, a 4-year-old daughter of the late Galileo, will look to improve off a flat seventh last out in the New York.
The British-bred bay was a Group 3 winner in France last May for trainer Fabrice Chappet before being transferred to conditioner Arnaud Delacour for a fall campaign.
In October, Magic Attitude captured the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, part of NYRA’s Turf Triple series, in her first start for Delacour and followed with a third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
The talented bay has made three starts this year, including a win in the 11-furlong Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay on firm Belmont turf in May. She will exit post 3 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in her Saratoga debut.
Madaket Stables, Tim Cambron, Anna Cambron and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ La Signare made the grade with a front-running score in the 2018 Grade 3 Wonder Again traveling nine furlongs on the Belmont turf.
The 6-year-old French-bred daughter of Siyouni, trained by Brendan Walsh, has made four of her last six starts in Grade 1 company, including a third in the 1 1/16-mile Jenny Wiley on yielding Keeneland turf in April and a closing second in the nine-furlong Gamely last out on firm footing on May 31 at Santa Anita.
La Signare will emerge from the inside post under Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Phipps Stable homebred Vigilantes Way enters from a 2 1/4-length score in the Eatontown, a 1 1/16-mile test over firm Monmouth Park turf on June 20.
The 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro bay, out of the Unbridled mare Salute, is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Mr Speaker and Grade 1-winning steeplechaser Snap Decision.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Vigilantes Way boasts a record of 12-5-2-3 and will be piloted from post 4 by Jose Ortiz.
The Diana is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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NYRA Saratoga Press Release
Photo: Chad Brown ( NYRA Photo)