Brown returns after banner 2011 at Saratoga Race Course

Chad Brown will have a difficult time duplicating his breakout 2011 Saratoga Race Course meet.

Chad Brown will have a difficult time duplicating his breakout 2011 Saratoga Race Course meet.

The 33-year-old Mechanicville native finished second in the trainer standings to the Todd Pletcher juggernaut, with 22 wins.

One of them was the first Grade I of his career as a head trainer, as Zagora took the Diana on the turf.

It was one of the biggest wins of Brown’s career, and also represented a trend in his barn that should help him approach his standing of 2011 when the 144th Saratoga meet kicks off on Friday.

Zagora is one of several European imports who have bolstered Brown’s operation, a pattern that was established by his former mentor, the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, and has begun to be a substantial part of Brown’s stable.

The key figures in Brown’s European pipeline are bloodstock agents Michel Zerolo and Peter Bradley, and an owner, Martin Schwartz, who is willing to shell out the money to purchase proven stakes horses and bring them to the U.S.

Of Brown’s five Grade I victories, four have been won by former Europe-based horses, Zagora, Stacelita and Desert Blanc.

“Martin Schwartz was the first person to send me a group of them, and the highest quality ones,” Brown said. “Michel Zerolo is the agent who spots them for Marty. I go back with Michel through Bobby Frankel, because he found a lot of horses for Bobby’s clients, so that’s how we all know each other and how it formed. And Marty’s been a big supporter of mine. He’s sent me some nice horses.

“We’ve had a lot of success with that, and now it’s grown into other clients.”

Schwartz bought the France-based Stacelita last year and sent her to Brown.

She won the Beverly D. at Arlington Park and the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park, giving Brown two more Grade I’s, and that was enough to earn Brown’s first Eclipse Award, in the filly and mare turf division, despite the fact that Stacelita was a disappointing 10th as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, after which she was retired.

Brown reloaded this year when Schwartz bought Banimpire for almost $3.1 million, but she was fifth as the 9-5 favorite in her U.S. debut, the Grade II New York at Belmont Park.

He also had Desert Blanc, who was second in the Fort Marcy and won the Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan, setting up a shot at the Arlington Million, but he injured a tendon after the Manhattan and was retired.

Still, Brown’s Euro contingent is strong, with Zagora and Dealbata, who may run in the De La Rose at Saratoga.

Zagora, who added three Grade III wins to her resume after the Diana, will work on Sunday, after which Brown will decide whether to run her in the Diana again next Saturday or wait for the Ballston Spa on Aug. 25.

“The Diana was my first Grade I, and it was at Saratoga, which makes it special,” Brown said. “She’s been a good horse and meant a lot to us. She’s had a good career, top to bottom, she’s a nice filly. Hopefully, we can win another stakes at Saratoga with her.”

Dealbata was successful in her U.S. debut, winning the Mohegan Sky at Belmont on June 16.

Brown’s other top stakes prospects include Dayatthespa, who debuted with a win at Saratoga last year and has won three straight stakes.

She completed a 3-for-3 stakes weekend for Brown in March by winning the Herecomesthebride, after Zagora had won the Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs and Hardened Wildcat won the Fred “Cappy” Capossela at Aqueduct.

Brown is also pointing Yari, winner of two straight, toward a stakes debut in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, Appleton and Elkwood winner Corporate to the Fourstardave and Center Divider to the Sword Dancer after a good second to Point of Entry in the Man ’o War last weekend.

“I thought he ran great,” Brown said. “I thought Rosie [Napravnik] rode an excellent race, slowing the pace down and saving some horse for the end. It was a big purse, he ran second and got a nice check. He hadn’t run in quite awhile, so I thought it was a good effort considering the layoff.”

Brown still has the undefeated Awesome Feather, who has been limited to three starts in 2011 and 2012, in his barn.

She has had nagging physical issues that have kept her away from the races, but hasn’t lost in nine starts, including the Grade I Gazelle in 2011. She hasn’t raced since late January, when she won the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff by 53⁄4 lengths.

Awesome Feather just came off a layoff and has put together two sharp works, including a 49.29 on the Oklahoma training track on Tuesday that was the fastest of 16 at four furlongs.

Brown has Broad Brush winner Street Life, who was considered an outsider for Kentucky Derby consideration before finishing sixth in the Wood Memorial. He was third in the Peter Pan and fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

Street Life is being pointed toward the Travers and will use either the Jim Dandy or Curlin as a prep.

Brown saddled his first Travers starter last year, but Bowman’s Causeway finished up the track in seventh.

He has some promising 2-year-olds who are a week or two away from showing that they’re ready for a Saratoga start.

Remarkably, his horses finished first or second over 50 percent of the time at Saratoga last year, and he had a sparkling 29.7 win percentage.

This year, Brown is seventh in North America in purse winnings and is hitting at a 26.97 percent clip.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” Brown said.

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