Just from a mathematical perspective, we can expect trainer Chad Brown to prevail in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1), the feature race on opening weekend at Saratoga.
Brown has won the 1 1/8-mile turf test for fillies and mares on four occasions, including the last three renewals, with Dacita, Lady Eli and Sistercharlie. He’ll saddle four of the six starters in the 2019 Diana, and when you consider his contingent includes the three betting favorites, anything less than a victory would come as a significant surprise.
Most of the attention will be focused on #4 Sistercharlie and #2 Rushing Fall. Sistercharlie won the Diana last year as part of a championship campaign that culminated with a triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), while the once-beaten Rushing Fall—winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1)—has rattled off back-to-back wins in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) and Just a Game Stakes (G1) to kick off 2019.
But Sistercharlie is returning from an eight-month layoff, and Rushing Fall benefited from uncontested leads in both her starts this year. The presence of #3 Mitchell Road, the frontrunning winner of the Galorette Stakes (G3) at Pimlico, should ensure Rushing Fall doesn’t receive such an easy trip up front in the Diana.
For those reasons I’m tempted to side with the third-ranked Brown entrant, #6 Homerique. She might not be as accomplished as Sistercharlie and Rushing Fall, but Homerique was a high-class group 1 competitor in France last year and has looked better than ever since being brought to the U.S. and transferred to Brown’s care.
Homerique kicked off 2019 with a late-running victory in the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay Stakes (G3), in which she overcome a bizarrely slow pace to defeat her grade 1-winning stablemate Competitionofideas by a half-length. She sprinted the final five-sixteenths of the Beaugay in :27.48.
Homerique was similarly impressive in the 1 1/4-mile New York Stakes (G2), where she again defeated Competitionofideas to the wire and finished up the last half-mile in :45.48.
In this “Battle of the Browns,” Homerique offers plenty of appeal as the probable third choice in the wagering. She’ll be carrying just 118 pounds in the Diana, six less than Sistercharlie and Rushing Fall. Her terrific turn of foot can help her spring the upset, and if Homerique does emerge victorious, I can guarantee you won’t see those 5-2 odds on her again, at least not anytime soon.
Let’s try to turn this seemingly unappealing betting race into a nice wagering score by keying Homerique on top of a hefty trifecta:
$10 trifecta: 6 with 2,4 with 2,4 ($20)