Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Alterite to begin season in Grade 1 TVG Diana
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Following an eight-month layoff, Alterite will make her 4-year-old debut in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 TVG Diana at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Martin Schwartz, Alterite will join Stephanie's Kitten from the barn of trainer Chad Brown for the 1 1/8-mile Diana, the first of 15 Grade 1 flat stakes on the 40-day Saratoga calendar. Sharing Saturday's card will be the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford for 2-year-olds.
From there she came up a neck short as the favorite in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in October at Keeneland Race Course, and rallied to be third by a length in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
Alterite emerged from the Breeders' Cup with a small chip in one ankle which needed to be removed, delaying her 2014 campaign. She has been working steadily at Saratoga for her return, including three straight breezes over the turf course.
"She's been doing well and training well," said Brown, whose first career Grade 1 win came in the 2011 Diana with Zagora. "I would have liked to get her a prep before this race, but I didn't have time. She seems to be training really well, and we're going to give it a shot and run her off the layoff.
"I'm not running unless I think I have a chance to win," he added. "It's a tough race, and running off a layoff in a Grade 1 is a tall order. But, she's a filly with a ton of ability and a ton of class, so we'll see what happens."
Alterite will carry defending Saratoga riding champion Javier Castellano and 121 pounds from post 8.
A two-time Grade 1 winner, Stephanie's Kitten will be making her third start since being transferred to Brown by owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey over the winter. She was third, beaten a half-length, in last year's Diana, her final race of 2013.
Stephanie's Kitten was injured in her stall shortly before she was scheduled to debut in the Grade 3 Hillsborough in March, instead opening the season running eighth by 3 ¼ lengths as the favorite in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on April 12.
Brown brought Stephanie's Kitten back in the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont Park on June 7, where she trailed early before coming five wide down the stretch to finish fifth, beaten 2 ¼ lengths.
"I thought she ran really well last time," Brown said. "I'm not sure in the first part of the race what she was doing so far back, but she came home very strong and she's trained well since. She's another one that belongs in the race."
Stephanie's Kitten, who won the Just a Game in 2013 and the Grade 1 Alcibiades in 2011, is 1-for-3 lifetime at Saratoga, having captured the Grade 2 Lake Placid and running fourth by a half-length in the Grade 2 Lake George in 2012.
"The two times she's run for me she hasn't hit the board," Brown said. "It's been frustrating for a horse that's a dual Grade 1 winner that we haven't been able to win a big race with her yet, but I think that she's sitting on a big race. For whatever circumstances in the first two times I ran her, she didn't perform as well as she could have. I just have to draw a line through those because she's trained better than she's run for me. I still believe in her."
Famed international jockey Frankie Dettori, riding at Saratoga for the first time this weekend, has the mount from post 9.
Also exiting the Just a Game is Strathnaver, who nearly upset the one-mile race at odds of 17-1 for trainer Graham Motion. Bred in England, the 5-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream was second by a nose under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
"The Just a Game progressed us to the Diana. It was not something I was necessarily thinking about," Motion said. "The filly has won at a mile and a half, and she just got beat in a Grade 1 going a mile, so it would seem very logical that this would be a really happy medium for her. Perhaps I was a little bit surprised how well she handled the mile. This would seem more natural to her in my eyes."
Motion shipped Strathnaver from his base in Fair Hill, Md. to Saratoga on July 13. She has three wins in nine North American starts including the Grade 3 Bewitch last spring at Keeneland. Her last victory came in Laurel Park's Lady Baltimore in September, where she rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park.
"She's always been very competitive. If you put a line through the Arlington race, her form is very strong," Motion said. "I couldn't be happier with how she's done since the Just a Game. This seems like a very logical progression. I like the fact that I'm stabled at Saratoga, so I'm able to get her up there in plenty of time. She's not a good shipper. That's been a problem for her, like last year when we went to Arlington. She just didn't handle the ship well at all, so I'm much more careful now about where I send her. The Diana seems like a very good fit, because we're there."
Strathnaver will break from post 5 with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez up at low weight of 115 pounds.
The 123-pound highweight for the Diana is Emollient, to be ridden by Joel Rosario for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who has won four editions of the Diana including three in a row from 2005-07. Three of Emollient's five career wins have come in Grade 1 stakes, most recently the Spinster at Keeneland in October.
Trainer Christophe Clement goes after his third Diana victory with Discreet Marq, a 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Discreet Cat who has not raced at Saratoga since breaking her maiden in 2012. She subsequently captured the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and Grade 2 Sands Point last year, and finished second in three other Grade 1 stakes.
Caroline Thomas, winner via disqualification of the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga last summer, returns to stakes company in the Diana. Trained by Barlcay Tagg for owner Joyce Young, the 4-year-old filly won a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance on June 15 following four straight losses to open the year.
Also entered for the Diana are multiple Grade 3 winner Somali Lemonade, who had a two-race win streak snapped while finishing a narrow third in the Just a Game; Solid Appeal, a three-time Grade 2 winner in Canada for trainer Reade Baker looking for her first stakes victory in the U.S.; Grade 3 winner Abaco, winless in four 2014 starts while beaten just 6 ¼ lengths combined, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay last time out; and Grade 1 winner Tannery, whose connections - owner Richard Santulli and trainer Alan Goldberg - upset last year's Diana with Laughing.
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