SARATOGA SPRINGS — To say that trainer Chad Brown targets the Grade I Diana would be a gross understatement.
He has saddled at least two horses in Saratoga Race Course’s most prestigious turf race for fillies and mares for each of the last six runnings.
One of the three he entered in Saturday’s 80th running of the race found a target of her own, long shot Ultra Brat, and Sistercharlie nailed the bullseye at the last second, winning by a nose with no time to spare for Brown’s third straight Diana victory.
It harkened to the back-to-back Dianas by Starine (2001) and Tates Creek (2002) trained by the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, for whom Brown was an assistant. Brown has won the Diana four times since 2011, when Zagora gave him his first Grade I victory as a head trainer. Lady Eli won last year, after Dacita in 2016.
“It’s very special and rewarding,” he said. “It’s a race we point for every year. I always remember my late mentor Bobby Frankel talking about a handful of races that he really pointed for, that were his favorites.
“This race came up. This is one he pointed for and held in high regard. And every year I participate in it, win or lose, I always think about him and how to use everything he taught me and how to get the job done.”
Sistercharlie got the job done in her typical fashion, from behind.
She was as many as 28 lengths out of it before just missing by a head to Fourstar Crook in her last start, the Grade II New York at Belmont Park on June 8.
In the Diana, her fourth start for Brown since coming to the U.S. from France last summer, Sistercharlie and jockey John Velazquez sat back in sixth in the seven-horse field.
She used an outside trip on the far turn to get in position for the closing kick, and then it was a matter of whether the wire would show up soon enough or too late.
“In mid-stretch, I was worried that she wouldn’t get there, especially when she didn’t want to get her correct lead in the lane,” Brown said. “It’s frustrating that she’ll put herself in that position early, but that’s her. Even before she arrived to my barn, that was her running style. She has a lot of heart and a lot of class.”
Velazquez said the wide trip on the turn was a little wider than he wanted it to be, but another Brown trainee, New Money Honey, angled out just enough to force Sistercharlie into the five path.
“It cost me a little bit down the lane to get her back into rhythm,” Velazquez said. “She switched leads late, but when she finally did, she gave me that spur down the lane to get down there in time. She’s a very good filly. She just has to put it together at the start and break better, but she’s definitely talented.”
Brown’s other mare, A Raving Beauty, finished third, three-quarters of a length behind the 15-1 betting long shot Ultra Brat.
“I’m thrilled,” said Graham Motion, who trains Ultra Brat. “She reconfirmed what I thought, that she belonged in the race. It’s just a tough beat.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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