Diana field is small, but also competitive
Three of the seven distaffers entered in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana S. (G1) at Saratoga are already Grade 1 winners. However, the other four aren’t slackers by any means, especially one who is trying turf for just the second time in the 1 1/8-mile contest.
My Miss Sophia was a top contender on last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail, and eventually finished second in the Run for the Lillies for trainer Todd Pletcher. That followed a 7 1/4-length romp in Aqueduct’s Gazelle S. (G2) and an 11-length maiden triumph at Gulfstream Park in her second career effort, both of which came on main tracks.
My Miss Sophia was unable to duplicate that early season success in her remaining pair of starts, finishing off the board against stakes rivals both times. Transferred to trainer Bill Mott for her four-year-old campaign, the chestnut miss was lackluster in her seasonal bow against Grade 1 competition on the dirt, but returned last out to easily wire a nine-furlong turf allowance/optional claimer at Belmont Park by 4 1/2 lengths.
For that My Miss Sophia earned the second highest BRIS Speed rating (100) of her career, surpassed only by her gutsy Oaks second last year. Joel Rosario, aboard for that drawing-off win, retains the mount in the Diana as My Miss Sophia faces some seasoned grass foes.
Chief among them is Stephanie’s Kitten, who has posted all but three of her 21 career starts on turf, usually against Grade 1 competition. The bay mare got started early, taking the 2011 Alcibiades S. (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2), and has since added two more Grade 1 scores, four Grade 1-placings and a second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) to her resume.
Stephanie’s Kitten was switched from Wayne Catalano to Chad Brown for her 2014 campaign, and actually made her last start for Catalano a half-length third in the 2013 Diana. The six-year-old mare was only a quarter-length back in second on the wire in last year’s edition, and both times she was ridden by John Velazquez. This go around, however, she gets the services of Irad Oritz Jr.
In the game of musical jockeys, Velazquez picks up the mount on Hard Not to Like, whom Ortiz rode to a third-place finish in Keeneland’s Jenny Wiley S. (G1) two back. Prior to that, Velazquez was aboard when the gray mare crossed under the wire first in the Endeavour S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs before being disqualified to second. Victor Espinoza was most recently in the pilot’s seat as Hard Not to Like gutted out a neck victory in the Gamely S. (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Tepin is the other Grade 1 winner in this field after extending her current win streak to three in the Just a Game S. (G1) on June 6 at Belmont Park. Julien Leparoux, aboard for all three of those wins including the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), has the call as the Mark Casse pupil seeks to complete a quartet.
Of the remaining three Diana contestants, Lady Lara was fourth behind Tepin in both the Just a Game and Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, while Waltzing Matilda and Kitten’s Queen were first and third, respectively, in the New York S. (G2) on June 5. Stephanie’s Kitten was a neck behind Kitten’s Queen when fourth in the New York S.
My Miss Sophia photo courtesy of NYRA/Joe Labozzetta/Adam Coglianese Photography