SARATOGA SPRINGS — Chad Brown has three shots to make it three in a row.
A dominant force in turf racing in North America, the 39-year-old trainer is set to saddle Sistercharlie, New Money Honey and A Raving Beauty in Saturday’s Grade I Diana at Saratoga Race Course.
Earlier in the week, on the subject of the Diana, Brown said “I love that race,” and it’s easy to see why.
Zagora represented his first Grade I winner anywhere when she won it in 2011, and Brown has also won the last two, with Dacita in 2016 and Lady Eli last year.
He comes back to Saratoga’s prime grass race for fillies and mares with another loaded hand — Sistercharlie is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line, and A Raving Beauty is right there at 2-1. Brown has had at least two horses entered in the Diana every year since 2013, including four in 2016.
Sistercharlie will be making her fourth start for Brown since starting her career in France, where she was a Group 3 winner and just missed in the Group 1 Prix de Diane. A Raving Beauty also began her career in Europe, mostly in Germany with a pitstop in Italy, before coming to the U.S., where she is 2-for-2 for Brown, most recently a win in the one-mile Grade I Just A Game on Belmont Stakes Day.
Besides having three talented horses in the mile-and-an-eighth Diana, Brown’s chance of winning is bolstered by the jockey services of John Velazquez (Sistercharlie), Javier Castellano (New Money Honey) and Irad Ortiz Jr. (A Raving Beauty).
Ortiz has been aboard for both of A Raving Beauty’s starts.
“She should have a good early position in the race, and Irad gets along with her really well,” Brown told the New York Racing Association. “In both of her starts, despite the fact that she pulls a little, he’s gotten her to settle down early in her race, and I think he’s gotten the best out of her. I don’t see the added distance [being] a problem.”
Unlike her stablemate, Sistercharlie is not undefeated since coming to the U.S., but it’s been close.
She lost the Belmont Oaks by a neck to New Money Honey last year, and this season has won the Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland before losing by a head to another Brown trainee, Fourstar Crook, in the Grade II New York on June 8.
“She got a very late start to her run and just missed,” Brown said. “I think she ran a really good race. All three of her races have been outstanding for us. Hopefully, she can get away from the gate a little better this time and get some position. There appears to be a little more pace in this race.”
Brown tried New Money Honey on the dirt after the Belmont Oaks win, and she was fifth, well beaten by Elate, in the Alabama at Saratoga, then returned to the turf to close out 2017 with two off-the-board finishes.
She got back to winning form in an allowance at Belmont on June 21.
“She had a top-notch year last year and maybe she had a few too many races at the end of last year and she just wasn’t herself,” Brown said. “We gave her a nice break and she came back good in that allowance race.”
An apparent horse-for-the-course in the Diana is Proctor’s Ledge, who swept the graded turf stakes at Saratoga in the Lake George and Lake Placid.
She was three-quarters of a length behind A Raving Beauty in the Just A Game.
“The last race, the one-turn mile at Belmont, was a fast time and that probably took her off her feet a little bit more than normal early, but she loved Saratoga last year and a mile and an eighth won’t be any problem at all,” trainer Brendan Walsh said.
The first wave of graded stakes for 2-year-olds continues with the Grade III Sanford.
Six of the seven colts in the field are coming off victories in maiden races, but the horse who lost in his last start, Starlight Racing’s Sombeyay, is the 2-1 favorite off a second by three-quarters of a length in the Tremont at Belmont on June 8.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: