The $600,000 Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course July 27 only drew a six-horse field, but four of the six are grade I winners, headed by recent Just A Game (gr. IT) winner Stephanie's Kitten.
She is trained by Wayne Catalano and owned by the “Kitten” King, Ken Ramsey, and his wife Sarah, who have an arsenal of Kitten’s Joys competing in major stakes across the country.
Also, three of the six starters are trained by Chad Brown, who is loaded for Saratoga this year and looking to dethrone Todd Pletcher.
In addition to Stephanie’s Kitten, who has won seven of her 12 career starts, including the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) and Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) and four other stakes, the 1 1/8-mile event also drew Jenny Wiley (gr. IT) winner Centre Court, Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) winner Dayatthespa, and Garden City Stakes (gr. IT) winner Samitar.
Under allowance conditions. Stephanie’s Kitten, Centre Court, and Samitar carry top weight of 123 pounds, with Dayatthespa in with 120.
As for the remaining starters, one is Irish-bred Dream Peace, breaking from the rail under Mike Smith, was second in last year’s Diana and third in the grade I Flower Bowl and 2011-2012 runnings of the E.P. Taylor. The daughter of Dansili, trained by Brown, is coming off a fast-closing third in the June 29 New York Stakes (gr. IIT).
"She probably prefers some give in the ground, but it looks like it's going to be dry the rest of the week," said Brown. "I don't know if we'll get the give in the ground we're looking for, but other than that it's her third race of the year, so it will be her best race."
Rounding out the field is Laughing, winner of the June 29 Eatontown Handicap (gr. IIIT) in her last start. Another daughter of Dansili, she captured the Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT) last year.
Stephanie’s Kitten will be the likely favorite, having won three of her past four starts, and again will be ridden by John Velazquez, breaking from post 2.
"She's coming off a couple of very good races," said Catalano. "We're happy with the way she's coming into the race. The (extra distance) doesn't worry me with a couple of races under her belt."
Centre Court, trained by Rusty Arnold, also has won three of her last four, and had little chance in the Just A Game after a horrendous trip that saw her bottled up in traffic and then having to check at the quarter pole. Prior to that, she had rattled off victories in the Mrs. Revere (gr. IIT), Honey Fox (gr. IIT), and Jenny Wiley. To show how familiar these fillies are with each other, her two defeats prior to her winning streak came at the hands of Dayatthespa and Stephanie’s Kitten. Regular rider Julian Leparoux again will be aboard the daughter of Smart Strike.
Dayatthespa, also trained by Brown, had won five in a row last year, all stakes, before finishing fifth in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Betfair Hollywood Park. After winning a New York-bred stakes in her 2013 debut, she finished second to Laughing in the Eatontown after setting the pace. Javier Castellano will be aboard.
Brown’s third starter is Samitar, winner of last year's Etihad Airways Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) who captured the Garden City in her second U.S. start. This year, the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar was beaten by Centre Court in the Honey Fox and Jenny Wiley and is coming off a victory in the restricted Fairy Garden Stakes at Belmont Park. She will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario.
Look for Dayatthespa and Laughing, trained by Alan Goldberg and ridden by Jose Lezcano, to cut out the early pace, with the remaining four playing cat and mouse waiting to see who makes the first move.
$600,000 Diana Stakes (gr. I, approximate post time 5:12 p.m. EDT), fillies and mares, 3YOs and up, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
1. Dream Peace (IRE), M.E. Smith, 118, C. Brown
2. Stephanie’s Kitten (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 123, W. Catalano
3. Dayatthespa (NY), J.J. Castellano, 120, C. Brown
4. Laughing (IRE), J. Lezcano, 118, A. Goldberg
5. Centre Court (KY), J.R. Leparoux, 123, G.R. Arnold
6. Samitar (GB), J. Rosario, 123, C. Brown