SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Chad Brown will enter Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Diana at Saratoga Race Course loaded for bear, saddling two former Breeders’ Cup winners in Rushing Fall and Sistercharlie as he looks to win the race for a fifth consecutive year.
The 82nd running of the Diana for older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the Mellon turf course will see Brown attempt his sixth win in the prestigious race, for which he has conditioned the previous four winners after first earning a victory with Zagora in 2011.
Sistercharlie has captured the last two runnings for Brown and will look to achieve a three-peat in headlining the six-horse field. The now 6-year-old daughter of Myboycharlie won the 2018 Eclipse Award as Champion Turf Female for a campaign that included her first Diana victory as well as scores in that year’s Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, Grade 1 Beverly D. and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
After ending 2018 with three straight Grade 1 wins, the Irish-bred owned by Peter Brant started 2019 with three additional victories against the highest caliber, defeating Rushing Fall by 1 ¾ lengths to repeat in the Diana before winning the Beverly D. again and adding a three-quarter length triumph in the Flower Bowl in October at Belmont Park.
All seven of Sistercharlie’s North American wins have come in Grade 1s. With 10 career wins in 16 starts, she also counts a Group 3 win in the 2017 Prix Penelope in France among her accomplishments.
Sistercharlie is one of just six repeat Diana winners, joining Forever Together [2008-09]; Glowing Honor [1988-89]; Shuvee (1970-71]; Tempted [1959-60]; and Miss Grillo [1946-47]. The race, which had its first running in 1939, has never seen a horse win three straight.
“That would be an amazing accomplishment,” Brown said.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, aboard Sistercharlie for the two Diana wins, will go for three straight, breaking from post 5.
Sistercharlie’s stablemate, Rushing Fall, is a five-time Grade 1 winner, including last out when she outkicked Jolie Olimpica by three-quarters of a length to repeat in the Jenny Wiley on July 11 at Keeneland. The winner of the 2017 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is already Grade 1-winner at ages 2, 3, 4 and 5, including the 2018 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.
Owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, Rushing Fall is 10-2-0 in 13 career starts, with her only off-the-board finish coming when fourth in the Grade 1 First Lady last October at Keeneland. The More Than Ready mare has registered triple digit Beyer Speed Figures in four of her last five starts, notching identical 103 figures for winning last year’s Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont Park and running second in the Diana. She also matched that figure in her two starts this year, winning both the Grade 3 Beaugay on June 3 at Belmont before besting an eight-horse Jenny Wiley field.
“They both seem to be training very well and coming into the race the right way. There are some nice horses in the race, so it looks like another great edition of the Diana,” Brown said.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, a two-time Diana winner, will be in the irons from post 3.
R Unicorn Stable’s Call Me Love has come close to breaking through since arriving in the United States this year from her native Europe. The English-bred filly made her first North American start in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Beaugay, running third behind the Brown-trained Diana duo, before running fourth in the Grade 2 New York just three weeks later at 1 ¼ miles over the Belmont turf.
Cutting back to 1 1/16 miles, Call Me Love was second by a neck to fellow Diana contender Starship Jubilee in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on July 25 at Saratoga over firm turf. Christophe Clement said Sunday’s distance, along with the possibility of inclement weather, could be the key if she wants to win for the first time since her last race in Europe in the Group 2 Premio Lydia Tesio in November in Italy.
Since the Ballston Spa, Call Me Love has breezed three times over the Oklahoma turf training track at Saratoga, including a four-furlong work in 49.11 seconds on Sunday.
“She’s been training great. Not OK. Great,” Clement said. “I think the distance suits her well – a mile and a sixteenth to a mile an eighth is good for her. There might be some rain in the forecast and she’s run well on softer turf before, so we’re ready to go.”
Joel Rosario will ride from the inside post.
Alex G. Campbell, Jr.’s Mean Mary is undefeated as a 4-year-old, starting 3-for-3 after ending her sophomore campaign with a victory against optional claimers in December at Gulfstream Park. In 2020, the Graham Motion trainee has racked up three straight graded stakes wins, taking the Grade 3 La Prevoyante at 1 ½ miles over Gulfstream Park’s turf before winning the 1 3/8-mile Grade 3 Orchid at the same track in March.
Returning off a three-month respite, the Scat Daddy filly recorded a career-best 101 Beyer for her 5 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 New York at 1 ¼ miles on June 27 at Belmont, giving her four straight victories overall.
Motion said he is anxious to see how Mean Mary handles a slight cut back as he looks towards the Grade 1, $2 million Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf contested at 1 3/16 miles in November at Keeneland.
“She’s been pointing to this race for a long time,” Motion said. “With the Breeders’ Cup, I need to find out if she can handle these shorter distances. She certainly did before we started running her at these longer races, but not at this level. She’s trained really well for this race and hasn’t really missed a beat. It’ll be a small but solid group of horses she’s facing.”
Since running fifth in her debut in September at Laurel Park, Mean Mary has won five of six, with her second-place effort against allowance company in November at Aqueduct Racetrack marking the lone race that didn’t end with a winner’s circle visit.
“I’d be lying if I told you I always knew she was going to be this caliber. She’s been a progression,” Motion said. “I think she really enjoys it. She gets out there and is just galloping.”
Luis Saez, aboard for her wins during the current streak, will return, drawing post 6.
Motion will also send out the 5-year-old veteran Secret Message, who ran fourth in last year’s Diana and is coming off a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Perfect Sting on August 14 at the Spa.
Wheeled back a week later, Motion said the Hat Trick filly, who started her 2020 with a victory in the Grade 3 Mint Julep going 1 1/16 miles in May at Churchill, has showed good energy leading into a return engagement.
“The fact that she’s a big, robust filly, we felt she could handle a quick turnaround,” said Motion, who has saddled five second-place finishers in the Diana. “It’s not going to be an oversized field and we feel like she’s been doing really well. She really ran the last quarter-mile last weekend and really sprinted home. She sprinted home as fast as anyone.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pick up the mount from post 2.
Blue Heaven Farm’s Starship Jubilee also enters Sunday on a four-race winning streak, with all those efforts against stakes company for trainer Kevin Attard. The 7-year-old veteran is the field’s most experienced entrant, compiling an 18-5-3 record in 36 starts.
Last out, Starship Jubilee bested Diana rivals Call Me Love and Sistercharlie to win the Grade 2 Ballston Spa by a neck, building on her win in the Grade 2 Hillsborough in March at Tampa Bay Downs. The daughter of Indy Wind is 4-for-4 this year, adding scores in the Grade 3 Suwannee River and the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf this winter at Gulfstream.
Jose Ortiz will pick up the call from post 4.
Sistercharlie wins the 2019 Diana
The Diana, Sunday’s featured race, is slated as Race 8 on the nine-race card, which offers a first post at 1:10 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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Saratoga Entries for Saturday, August 22
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Sistercharlie. Credit: NYRA/Coglianese Photo