Horse for the course, trainer angles in play at the Spa

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 23rd, 2016

Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1) doesn’t include divisional leader Tepin, who is readying for a start versus males in the August 13 Fourstardave (G1), but the 1 1/8-mile affair still features a quality field of 10 turf distaffers.

Morning-line favorite Miss Temple City merits serious respect. Winner of the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) over males two back, the Graham Motion-trained filly exits a fourth versus a top-class field in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot.

Chad Brown has four entrants, including the early 7-2 second choice Wekeela, who finished second to Tepin when making her U.S. bow in the Jenny Wiley (G1) two back and runner-up in the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita most recently. Recepta, second in the Just a Game (G1) last month, is another logical contender for Jimmy Toner.

I will recommend the chances of Dacita (#6).

Dacita isn’t the only contestant with a victory over the course, but her triumph in last year’s Ballston Spa (G2) stands out. The daughter of Scat Daddy overcame a less-than-favorable trip to prove best, rallying in eye-catching fashion to deny Tepin by a head, and Dacita remains the last horse to defeat the champion mare.

The South American import went off form afterward, finishing the year with a dull ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and Dacita needed a couple of starts this season before returning to the win column in the New York (G2) on June 10. She’s finally back in form for Brown, registering a career-best 102 BRIS Late Pace rating last out, and I’ll look for further improvement over a Saratoga turf she loves.

Dacita is listed as the 5-1 fourth choice on the morning line.

George Weaver won seven turf races at Saratoga last year but went winless from three attempts on Friday’s opening day. The conditioner is back with a pair of turf starters Saturday, Cort (#10) in the 5th race and With Exultation (#1) in the 7th race.

Cort looms a serious win contender on the front end. A sharp winner two back at Belmont, the 4yo gelding caught a speed-laden field and chased a hot pace before weakening in the lane last time. He receives a much more favorable set-up as the probable lone speed today and I like his chances wire to wire with Gabriel Saez.

With Exultation faces a tougher task but rates as a sleeper in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claimer. An earner of more than $300k, the 6yo gelding captured his first two starts this year before stepping up with a pair of unplaced efforts versus graded rivals. Freshened since April 30, he returns at the right level and Weaver wins at an 18% clip off a 45-90 layoff (compared to 12% overall). With Exultation is a two-time runner-up over the local turf and at 15-1 on the morning line, he’s eligible to outperform his odds. is offering players the opportunity to share in a $500 daily prize, which increases to $1,000 on the final weekend of the meet, by placing $5 Daily Double wagers at Saratoga in the $30,000 Saratoga Cold Double contest.