Thursday, July 26, 2012


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Zagora will take on the top three finishers from the Longines Just a Game and a pair of runners from Europe when she aims for a title defense in the Grade 1, $600,000 Diana on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

The Diana, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, was carded as the ninth race and has a scheduled post time of 5:12. p.m. MSG+ will broadcast the Diana and the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, Saturday’s 10th race, as part of The New York Racing Series presented by Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Last year’s Diana marked the first Grade 1 win for both Zagora and trainer Chad Brown, a native of nearby Mechanicville. Since that race, Zagora is 3-0-0 in five starts, with her three wins all coming in Grade 3 races.

So far in 2012, Zagora swept Tampa Bay Downs’ Endeavour and Hillsborough in February and March, respectively, before failing to fire when fifth in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April at Keeneland. The Martin Schwartz color-bearer regained the winning thread in her most recent start, rallying from last of seven to take the Gallorette on May 19 on Preakness Day at Pimlico.

“She came out of the Gallorette with a popped splint, and we freshened her for a couple of weeks to fix that,” said Brown, who since last year’s Diana has added Grade 1 wins in the Beverly D., Flower Bowl Invitational, and Gazelle. “She caught a slow pace [in the Jenny Wiley], and she’s 0-for-3 at Keeneland. It’s not her course. Otherwise, she’s been perfect this year.”

Ramon Dominguez will ride Zagora, the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, from post position 3.

Zagora’s assignment will not be easy as she will have to track down Tapitsfly, who blazed on the lead and rebuffed Winter Memories in the stretch to win the Grade 1, one-mile Longines Just a Game on June 9 at Belmont.

Trainer Dale Romans expects Tapitsfly to employ similar front-running tactics on Saturday.

“I hope that she’ll relax as well as she did in the Just a Game,” said Romans, who trains the 5-year-old Tapit mare for Frank L. Jones, Jr. “Our plan for her this year was to get her to really relax and come from a little off the pace, and then we got to the Just a Game, a Grade 1, and there was no speed, so we threw that out the window. And I doubt there will be enough speed to run with her here, so she’ll probably do the same thing.”

Tapitsfly, the 7-2 morning-line third choice, will depart from the rail with Joel Rosario aboard.

Trainer Jimmy Toner fears his charge, Phillips Racing Partnership’s Winter Memories, will once again have to try to track down a free-running Tapitsfly in the Diana.

“You have to give [Tapitsfly] a lot of credit [for her Just a Game win],” said Toner. “She was on the lead, nice and comfortable, and we just couldn’t catch her. When they asked her, she had plenty enough to kick in. We just couldn’t catch her. No excuses. I don’t know if Tapitsfly will go [1 1/8 miles in the Diana], but if you have the same scenario as last time, she will go that far. And I don’t see any pace in the race, truthfully. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, it could be the same scenario all over again.”

The Longines Just a Game marked Winter Memories’ first loss at Belmont, the site of her score in last September’s Grade 1 Garden City. She has won six total graded stakes, including last summer’s Grade 2 Lake George here at the Spa.

Javier Castellano has the call aboard Winter Memories, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 6.

Also exiting the Longines Just a Game is Hungry Island, an Emory A. Hamilton homebred who picked up the pieces to finish third after racing farther off the pace than usual.

“She broke fine [in the Just a Game], but then [John Velazquez] had to ride her to get her into the race,” said her Hall of Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey. “You kind of have got to get her covered up. Nobody was going to beat [Tapitsfly] that day as fast she ran, but I think stretching [Hungry Island] out is going to help her. She’s going to be back [in the field], but she’s got to be back the right way. She had a pretty quick work earlier in the week [prior to the Just a Game], and maybe that took some of the sting out of her.”

Hungry Island owns a pair of graded victories, having defeated Winter Memories in last year’s Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid and taking the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile in May at Churchill Downs.

Hungry Island, who will leave from post 6 at 5-1 on the morning line, will once again have Velazquez’s services

The Diana will be Dream Peace’s first start in North America since she finished third, beaten a head, as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor last October at Woodbine. She raced twice this year, reporting home fourth in the Group 3 Prix Allez France at Chantilly in April and eighth against males in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji on May 20. Her top victory to date is a score in the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville last August.

Dream Peace, trained by Robert Collet for Etreham Farm, was installed at 6-1 on the morning line. Julien Leparoux has the call from post 4.

Rounding out the field is Chris McHale’s Law of the Range, who was a listed winner and Group 3-placed in England. She enters the Diana off a sixth in the Group 2 Windsor Forest on June 20 at Royal Ascot. Rajiv Maragh rides the 15-1 shot from post 2.

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