Green Hills Farm's Voodoo Dancer, widest of five pressing for the lead in deep stretch, pulled away from the others while edging favored Heat Haze for a neck victory in Saturday's $500,000 Diana Handicap (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course.
Voodoo Dancer just missed by a nose to Tates Creek in last year's Diana.
"Maybe we will try the Beverly D. when we see how she comes out of this," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "I thought she got a superb ride from Corey Nakatani because he saved ground all the way. He came wide in the stretch. She runs better that way and she will give you an explosive turn of foot.
"It is a good feeling to beat Juddmonte," he added. "They beat us by a nose last year in this race with Tates Creek. She's probably a better miler than she is at a mile and a quarter, but the program is made mostly for 1 ¼-mile horses. It is difficult because I have to stretch her all the time."
Trainer Christophe Clement won the Diana in 1997 with Rumpipumpy. The victory ends a two-year win streak in this race by jockey Bobby Frankel.
Nakatani, who was aboard Voodoo Dancer when she won the Beverly Hills (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park in her last start June 28, was able to save ground on Voodoo Dancer while relaxed in next-to-last in a field of eight through a moderate pace. When he called on her Voodoo Dancer reached the front in the final furlong and outfinished Heat Haze and Jerry Bailey, part of the 7-5 Juddmonte entry for Frankel. Heat Haze's entry mate, Pertuisane, ridden by Javier Castellano, was 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Final time for the 1 1/8-mile Diana was 1:47 4/5 on a firm course.
"I wanted to save ground because I know she had a wide trip in this race last year," Nakatani said. "At the three-eighths pole, I edged up behind Heat Haze. I was really patient turning for home. She puts her head down and she's has another gear. She finishes up like a Quarter Horse. Jerry (Bailey's) horse came back to her and my horse gave me that other gear. This is my first stakes win in Saratoga. I love New York. It's great."
Expected pace setter Snow Dance lost several lengths on the field when breaking in the air for jockey Richard Migliore, leaving Delta Princess to set fractions of :49 for the half-mile and 1:13 for six furlongs. Wonder Again, racing on Delta Princess' flanks throughout, went to the lead briefly as they spread out in the homestretch, but could not finish with the top two. Riskaverse, third on the far outside into the stretch, held on for fourth.
The 5-2 second choice, Voodoo Dancer paid $7.20, $3 and $2.70. Heat Haze and Pertuisane returned $2.70 and $2.80. The $2 exacta was worth $17.60.
A multiple grades stakes winner, Voodoo Dancer captured her first win in a grade I race for Clement. The 5-year-old Kingmambo mare has 11 wins, four second and two thirds in her 20-race career. The $300,000 prize increased her career earnings to more than $1.4 million. Lazy E Ranch in Kentucky bred Voodoo Dancer.