Betting on Brown in the Diana Stakes

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Summer is here, and so is racing at Saratoga. The beloved New York race meet kicks off on Thursday, and the first of many Grade 1 race on the agenda—the $500,000 Diana S. (G1)—is slated for Saturday.

The 1 1/8-mile turf test for fillies and mares has been dominated in recent years by trainer Chad Brown, who won five straight editions from 2016 through 2020. He also picked up first prize in 2011, giving Brown half a dozen Diana winners from the past 11 years.

Chances are, Brown will pick up a seventh Diana victory on Saturday. Four of the six entrants are conditioned by Brown, and they comprise a formidable quartet. All four are graded stakes winners with encouraging credentials to offer.

First off, there's #1 Technical Analysis, a gate-to-wire winner of the Gallorette S. (G3) at Pimlico two months ago. The four-year-old daughter of Kingman brings a lot of tactical speed to the table and is 2-for-2 over the Saratoga lawn, having employed pacesetting and tracking tactics to nab the Lake Placid S. (G2) and Lake George S. (G3) here last summer.

But Technical Analysis isn't the only speedy filly in the Diana field. In addition to the Al Stall trainee #5 Dalika, the pacesetting runner-up in the Mint Julep S. (G3) at Churchill Downs last month, Technical Analysis' own stablemate #6 In Italian figures to be prominent early. The improving four-year-old has carved out the pace in four of her last five starts, wiring the Honey Fox S. (G3) at Gulfstream during the winter and most recently coming home third in the one-mile Just a Game S. (G1) at Belmont.

A contested pace in the Diana could play to the strengths of Brown's #4 Rougir, who unleashed a sharp rally from behind a slow pace to win the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay S. (G3) at Belmont two starts back. Winner of the 1 1/4-mile Prix de l'Opera (G1) in France last fall, Rougir disappointed over the same trip in the New York S. (G1) at Belmont last month, finishing fifth as the odds-on favorite. But Rougir was only beaten two lengths while attempting to close into a pedestrian pace, so with quicker fractions in the Diana, she's eligible to rebound under hot jockey Flavien Prat.

But the most formidable of all the Brown trainees is surely #3 Bleecker Street. The unstoppable four-year-old is undefeated in seven starts, including four consecutive graded stakes wins. After rallying to flashy scores in the Endeavour S. (G3) and Hillsborough S. (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, Bleecker Street produced a fierce rally between rivals to overcome a slow pace and win the Modesty S. (G3) at Churchill Downs by half a length.

These efforts preceded a sensational victory in the New York S. (G1), in which Bleecker Street trailed the slow pace for much of the journey before accelerating the final quarter-mile in a freakish :21.70 per Trakus to get up and defeat a deep field (including the above-mentioned Rougir) by half a length.

Bleecker Street doesn't know how to lose, and her brilliant turn-of-foot has gotten more impressive with every start this season. The only time she caught a quick pace this year, she obliterated the Hillsborough by 3 3/4 lengths, so I'm optimistic a quicker tempo in the Diana will help Bleecker Street deliver her most impressive victory to date. Under three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, I expect to see Bleecker Street visit the winner's circle again on Saturday.

Completing the field is the Godolphin homebred #2 Creative Flair, whose trainer—Charlie Appleby—won this race in 2021 with Althiqa. Creative Flair has already run twice in the U.S., finishing third in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks (G3) and fourth in the 1 3/8-mile Jockey Club Oaks last fall. Both races featured modest pace fractions, and it's possible the distances were a bit farther than Creative Flair wants to run. She was a nice winner of the 1 1/8-mile Balanchine S. (G2) to kick off the year in Dubai, so if she encounters a quick pace while sticking to the same distance in the Diana, I can envision Creative Flair landing a top-four finish.


1st: Bleecker Street
2nd: Rougir
3rd: Technical Analysis
4th: Creative Flair

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Diana Stakes?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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