The Grade 1 Diana may not have come up big on field size, but it came up huge on talent. Chad Brown trainees Rushing Fall and Sistercharlie are a combined 20-for-29 lifetime, while Mean Mary has won three graded stakes races in a row and Starship Jubilee is 18-for-36 with $1.6 million in career earnings.
As handicappers, we tend to whine and complain when things aren’t perfect (to be fair, that happens a lot). However, to do that with any credibility in situations that matter, we need to stop and realize when things are good. Yes, six-horse fields are not ideal, but on the other hand, what top-flight horses from this division are missing?
The Sunday feature is a legitimate Grade 1 race with several Breeders’ Cup-caliber horses. I’m really excited to see these older turf distaffers go postward.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Five was cancelled when multiple undercard races came off the turf (remember, all bets for turf races assume they stay there). Happy Hill Lil, meanwhile, was a closer on a day where you wanted your horse to be on or near the lead. I dropped $10.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll lean on the Grand Slam, since I like #5 SISTERCHARLIE enough to single her in the Diana. My $1 ticket starts in the fifth race and reads as follows: 4,5,7 with 1,2,5 with 1,3 with 5. I’ll also key Sistercharlie in a $10 late double starting in the eighth that singles #3 ALLIED INVASION in the finale.
TOTAL WAGERED: $28.
Best Bet: No Salt, Race 4
Longshot: High Command, Race 5
Simply the Best
#5 UPTOWN FLIRT: Is the lone runner in here with experience going two turns, and she ran just fine in that race. She was third that day, and the runner-up from that event came back to just miss behind a promising Chad Brown trainee a few days ago; #6 BLACK SAND: Is one of many regally-bred Chad Brown runners to debut going long on turf this meet. She certainly could win this, but she comes in off of just three works in the past month, and that means she might need a race; #2 SIMPLY THE BEST: Fetched $175,000 at auction earlier this year and has every right to be a runner. She’s by fast-rising sire Constitution and is a half-sister to a horse named Guns Loaded, who won a Grade 3 on the grass.
#7 SCORING: Likely needed his last race, which doubled as his first outing since August. He drops back in against claimers of his own age group in this race, and the outside post combined with his tactical speed could give jockey David Cohen plenty of options; #3 WICKSTERS DREAM: Has won two in a row and thumped a weaker group last month at this route. He goes from one astute barn to another, and this is a horse that may be figuring things out on his way up the ladder; #4 MISSION WRAPITUP: Runs for a tag for the first time after fading to fourth against state-bred allowance foes going slightly longer. He’s run well in several state-bred stakes races and is dropped in for the tag by aggressive connections who do this often here.
#5 FIFTH RISK: Comes in off a pair of head-turning works for the legendary Pletcher/Velazquez tag team. She’s by promising young sire Outwork, and if the strong gate drills are any indication, she’s got all the talent it takes to win at first asking; #3 AMERICAN WEST: Hammered for $925,000 last year at Keeneland and is bred to be special. She’s by Curlin and out of Grade 3 winner Jacaranda, who herself is a half-sister to Constitution. The hesitation comes because she initially shipped north to Monmouth, which is where Chad Brown’s second-stringers usually go; #6 JADE EMPRESS: Earned a bullet for her most recent work on August 13th, and she’s got enough solid drills to suggest that wasn’t a fluke. Bill Mott’s runners often need a race or two to get going, and she’s bred to go a bit longer than this route, but if she’s ready, she’s got every right to run well.
#2 NO SALT: Will likely be a very heavy favorite, and for good reason. He ran a good second in his first start for a tag earlier this month, and this doesn’t seem like nearly as strong a group as the one he faced that day; #7 FALSE ALARM: Was very headstrong in the same race my top pick exits, so I’m willing to draw a line through that effort. His two-back race at Belmont was pretty solid, and another run like that likely gets him a big piece of this; #4 SUPPLY SIDER: Took a while to get going last time out but did enough to salvage fourth in his first start around two turns. With only two prior efforts to this point, maybe he’s got more room to improve.
Cold Hard Cash
#7 COLD HARD CASH: Has a record that looks far better if you toss the two-back effort, one that preceded a layoff of longer than six months. He broke his maiden last time out and tries two turns for the first time here. He’s got plenty of bottom-side distance pedigree, so I think he’ll embrace the added ground; #4 HIGH COMMAND: Hasn’t run in a while and didn’t show much in four outings at Aqueduct, but the return to two turns should be music to his ears. He won four times last fall at Finger Lakes going a similar route, and all of his races at Aqueduct were run at one-turn configurations; #5 SIX PERCENT: Hasn’t won in more than a year but ran an OK third in his first time going two turns last month. This is his third start off of a long layoff, and he could be coming to hand for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
Madam Deputy (MTO)
#1 TOWERING GAZE: Drops into the maiden claiming ranks for the first time after three OK efforts against state-bred maiden special weight foes. It seems like she’s found a soft group for the level, and this barn has been picking up steam over the past week; #5 SILENT EMPRESS: May not have had the best trip in her debut, when she was boxed in most of the stretch run. I don’t know how much that trouble really cost her, but she’s certainly eligible to improve and Rosario sees fit to ride back; #2 HIGH SCHOOL CRUSH: Just missed against similar last time out and figures to once again do her best running late. Based on figures, she’s a contender, but she’s had plenty of chances and may not get as much early pace as she wants.
Pete’s Play Call
#3 FREE ENTERPRISE: Gets one more shot from me after possibly bouncing a bit last time out. He was fifth against a pretty strong group for that level, and that day’s runner-up has since come back to win. Improvement third off the bench wouldn’t be a shock; #1 BIG ENGINE: Always seems to fire and may have run a career-best race last time out. This is another step up in class out of the state-bred ranks, but it’s tough to say he doesn’t deserve a shot against these given his recent form; #6 PETE’S PLAY CALL: Responded to the drop in class with a win last time out, and his new connections step him back up the ladder here. He’s 3-for-3 at Saratoga, and his tactical speed should ensure jockey Luis Saez will be able to work out a favorable trip.
#5 SISTERCHARLIE: Likely needed her return to the races in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, where she was third in a race that was likely shorter than she wants to go. Between the added distance, improved readiness, and the pace scenario, she looms large in her attempt at a third straight win in the Grade 1 Diana; #4 STARSHIP JUBILEE: Ran her win streak to four in a row in the Ballston Spa and has done lots right over the past few seasons. Her recent string of victories includes two at today’s distance, and she may be in career-best form; #3 RUSHING FALL: Has assembled a resume that could get her in the Hall of Fame someday. She’s 10-for-13 lifetime, with Grade 1 wins in four straight seasons, but this may be a bit longer than she wants to go and she may have company up front in the form of #6 MEAN MARY.
#3 ALLIED INVASION: Ran reasonably well when third in his debut earlier this month. Pay attention to how No Salt, that day’s runner-up, performs in the fourth. A strong performance by him may mean good things for this one; #5 NERO’S FIDDLE: Has run fourth twice against similar foes and gets a big rider switch to Luis Saez. Blinkers come on as well, and I think he may show significantly more early zip than he has in the past; #6 AINTITFUNKYNOW: Didn’t do much running here last month in his first try at this level. His two and three-back efforts at Belmont, though, would make him a major player if he can channel that form; the question is, is he the type of horse that’s better around one turn?