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Brown holds all the cards in Diana

Brown holds all the cards in Diana

Will saddle four of six in Diana, including champion Sistercharlie, who won it last year
Brown holds all the cards in Diana
Sistercharlie (1) catches Ultra Brat to win the 2018 Diana by a nose at Saratoga Race Course.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- It didn't take long for trainer Chad Brown to spread a full house on the table.

Day 3 of the 2019 Saratoga Race Course meet features the Grade I Diana, a race he has won four times in the last eight years, including the last three.

If one of his horses doesn't win it it again Saturday, it won't be for lack of a handful of live shots. This year's Diana has drawn a field of six fillies and mares, and Brown will saddle four of them, including last year's winner Sistercharlie, making her first start of the year off a Champion Turf Female Eclipse Award-winning season in 2018.

Sistercharlie has been training steadily at Belmont Park, but hasn't raced since winning the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

"I wish I had a prep race for her, but she just ran out of time, unfortunately," Brown told the New York Racing Association. "It's a tall order to start her back in a Grade I, but she's a champion and she likes the course, having won last year, so we're going to give her a shot."

Sistercharlie won four Grade I races last year, and her only loss was a second by a head to stablemate Fourstar Crook in the Grade II New York at Belmont Park in June.

Despite the eight-month layoff from racing, Sistercharlie is the 8-5 morning-line favorite, but Brown's live prospects don't end there.

While Sistercharlie has been on the bench, Rushing Fall (9-5) and Homerique (5-2) have each gone 2-for-2 in 2019.

Rushing Fall, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner in 2017 who took the Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga last year as a 3-year-old, finished first in the Grade I Jenny Wiley, a race Sistercharlie won during her championship campaign last year, and the Just A Game on Belmont Stakes Day.

Both races were at distances shorter than the Diana's mile and an eighth, but Rushing Fall won at that distance in the Lake Placid and QEII Cup at Keeneland last year.

"The distance is about her limit, but she's done it before," Brown said. "This will be the toughest race she's ever run in, but she's doing really well."

Homerique has come from off the pace to win the Beaugay at a mile and sixteenth and the New York at a mile and a quarter this year, after having raced in France last year.

Brown's other Diana horse is long shot Thais, who hasn't won a stakes race in eight U.S. starts since coming over from France, but completed a Brown trifecta behind Sistercharlie and Fourstar Crook in the Grade I Beverly D at Arlington Park last August.

Rounding out the Diana field are Mitchell Road, a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner-by-disqualification Country House, and Secret Message.

Mitchell Road has won four straight, but is making a big jump up in class in the Diana.

SANFORD

Also on the 11-race Diana card is the Grade II Sanford for 2-year-olds, which will be run as the third race on the 11-race card.
Cucina is the 8-5 favorite in the field of five off a neck victory to break his maiden at Belmont Park on June 21, a race scheduled for the turf that was moved to a sloppy main track.

"We had him in on the grass and it came off, but he ran good," trainer Mark Casse told NYRA. "We entered and we'll have a look. He's been training well. I think ultimately, his best race will be on the grass, but we'll see."

Raging Whiskey and By Your Side are two out-of-towners who are co-second choice at 5-2 off victories, Raging Whiskey in a maiden race at Santa Anita and By Your Side by a nose at Churchill Downs.

Doug O'Neill has assumed training duties from Luis Mendez for Raging Whiskey. Another O'Neill 2-year-old filly, Comical, won the Schuylerville on opening day.

Rounding out the field are Memorable and Tomato Bill, a son of More Than Ready who was bought at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale for $500,000.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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