Saratoga’s opening weekend features the GR 1 Diana Stakes for Fillies and Mares going 1 1/16 Mile on the Turf course. This event is filled with solid contenders including 4 from the amazing Chad Brown barn, along with GR 1 winner Miss Temple City listed as the 3-1 morning line favorite. In post position order:
1. 12-1 Sandiva: 6.2 Best. Layoff. She earned that 6.2 Best last year, but tailed off in her next 3 starts. She has been sidelined for 3 ½ months since then. Connections are very good and it should be noted that she posted that Best after a long layoff. Nevertheless, this is asking a lot.
2. 3-1 Miss Temple City: 6.9 Best. Marching pattern. Determining her pattern is actually a tricky read, as her last race was a competitive 4th at Royal Ascot on a soft Turf course, where she was dismissed at 12-1. I am of the opinion that in general the European Turf runners are superior to those from the US, with the exception of the incredible Tepin, so I am going to continue to view Miss Temple City with a positive pattern. Prior to her Royal Ascot race, she scored convincingly in a GR 1 against the boys at Keeneland. Very good connections. Very Dangerous!
3. 15-1 Strike Charmer: 8.0 Best. Circle Back pattern. She posted that 8.0 Best last May, followed by some regressing Numbers. She has shown recent improvement with a 9.9 in her most recent. Solid connections. She will need much more.
4. 7-2 Wekeela: 4.0 Best. One race regression. This will be only her third US start after some excellent races last year in France. She posted that 4.0 Best in her US debut after a 6 month break. She then disappointed by regressing to 7.4 in her last. This is the first of the Chad Brown runners, and he has given her nearly 2 months freshening and retains the superior JJ Castellano. Together they have won at 42% from 31 starts! I do not like it when a horse regresses, however I tend to be forgiving if it as after a Rest then Best effort, and they are then given time to recoup. I also note that she gets 6 pounds from Miss Temple City, which is worth over a full point on our scale. Did I mention Chad Brown and Castellano? I make her the one to beat.
5. 10-1 Mrs McDougal: 8.5 Best. Paired her Best. Like Wekeela, she also posted a Rest then Best in her 2016 debut, a nice score in her 2016 debut. She then essentially paired that with a 3rd in the GR 1 Just a Game. Jock Jose Ortiz ends up on Onus, but certainly Rosario is very good. It is very likely that the second Chad Brown entry will improve. She will need a step forward.
6. 5-1 Dacita: 4.3 Best. Last race regression. Detailed before, I take that last race regression with a huge grain of salt, as it was at 1 ¼ Mile, and she won a GR 2. She actually beat Tepin last year in her US debut. This is the 3rd of the Chad Brown runners, and it is a formidable combination when Irad Ortiz is aboard. A serious threat!
7. 9-2 Recepta: 8.1 Best. Mild Circle Back pattern. She has been competitive in several Graded Stakes, including a couple of GR 1 events. Very good connections. Needs a step forward.
8. 15-1 Onus: 6.0 Best. Marching pattern. Here is another with a Rest then Best one race back as she tallied gate to wire in an Allowance race in May after 6 months on the bench. She then ran third at 3-5, although her Number actually improved. Excellent connections, and I do note that Jose Ortiz ends up here. She promises to be forwardly placed. Longshot with a shot.
9. 20-1 Rainha Da Bateria: 7.3 Best. One race regression. Here is the 4th Chad Brown starter, who will be ridden by the excellent jockey Leparoux. She comes from far back and could be picking them off down the lane, especially if the pace is too quick. Not out of the question.
10. 8-1 Isabella Sings: 4.6 Best. Marching pattern. This quick miss figures to control the early running, and may be setting easy splits, although she also rated and won 1 race back. Trainer Pletcher is superb and Jockey Paco Lopez has excellent stats including 9 of 16 winners, a sizzling 56%!!! when riding a Pletcher horse. A serious longshot gate to wire chance!
WOW!!! What an intriguing and competitive looking race. I make Chad Brown runner Wekeela my top choice, while each of the other 3 Chad Brown horses also look tough. I expect Isabella Sings to take them a long way, and she may not look back. Of course, Miss Temple City deserves deep respect, and Onus is an interesting longshot.