The Diana will always hold a special place for Mechanicville’s Chad Brown.
When Zagora won it in 2011, it gave Brown the first Grade I of his career as a head trainer.
He’ll take two shots at it today on a card that also includes the 100th running of the Sanford for 2-year-olds.
Besides Stephanie’s Kitten, who will be making her third start in Brown’s name after coming over from Wayne Catalano’s barn, Brown has the 3-1 morning-line favorite — Alterite — in what looks like a very competitive race.
Like Zagora, Alterite, a French-bred daughter of Literato, is another in a line of European horses purchased by Martin Schwartz and brought to the U.S. and sent to Brown.
She won the Grade I Garden City at Belmont Park and was second by a neck in the QEII Cup at Keeneland heading into the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, where she was third to Dank by a length.
She needed minor ankle chip surgery and is coming off a seven-month layoff.
“We’re on a little bit of a time crunch with that horse,” Brown said. “She got started later than I would’ve liked, but she is training well. Tall task, coming back off that long layoff into a Grade I, but she’s a Grade I horse.”
Stephanie’s Kitten, third in the Diana last year by a half-length, has been off the board in two starts for Brown.
The pace scenario could set up for stalkers and closers, as Emollient, Discreet Marq and Somali Lemonade usually show early speed.
Emollient was right with Alterite in fourth in the Breeders’ Cup, and has been close in three starts this year, most recently a second by a nose to Miss Serendipity in the Gamely at Santa Anita.
If Emollient wins, it would be trainer Bill Mott’s fifth Diana victory since 2005.
In the Sanford, trainer Todd Pletcher will be shooting for his fifth win in the race since 1999 when he saddles the 5-2 second choice, Nonna’s Boy, for owner Mike Repole.
Named in honor of Repole’s grandmother, Nonna’s Boy broke his maiden first time out by wiring the field by 5 1⁄2 lengths at Belmont Park on June 13. Actually, all nine horses in the field were debut winners.
Nonna’s Boy will be ridden by John Velazquez and break from the No. 8 post, just inside the 2-1 favorite, Cinco Charlie.
“We’ll let him run out of the gate, and see how the race unfolds,” Pletcher said.
Cinco Charlie, trained by Steve Asmussen, broke his maiden by 2 3⁄4 lengths at Churchill Downs in May and followed that up with a victory in the Grade III Bashford Manor by 13⁄4 lengths over Silverhill, who is also running in the Sanford.