Godolphin fillies finished 1-2 in June 5 Just a Game Stakes (G1T) at Belmont Park.
Apair of British-trained horses will try to continue their luck on the New York turf June 17 as the racing circuit makes its way upstate for the summer.
Godolphin’s Althiqa and Summer Romance , who filled the first two spots in the June 5 Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1T) at Belmont Park, will try to come out on top again at Saratoga Race Course. The 4-year-olds fillies are entered in an expected field of eight for the $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1T), the first of 20 grade 1 races of the meet. They will run a furlong farther at the Spa than their mile trip last out.
The Charlie Appleby trainees competed in Europe and Dubai before making their North American debuts. They will try to keep the international flags flying a week after runners campaigned by owners associated with Coolmore and trainer Aidan O’Brien swept the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1T) and Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1T) with Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara , respectively.
The Diana will also be the fourth consecutive start that Althiqa and Summer Romance have made together. Althiqa receives a new pilot after being ridden by Mike Smith in the Just a Game. Manny Franco will guide the Dark Angel filly from the outside post Saturday, while Summer Romance, a daughter of Kingman , retains Luis Saez from post 6.
New York-based trainer Chad Brown comes back to the Diana after winning the past five editions of the race and six overall. He first won with Zagora in 2011, then again with Dacita (2016), Lady Eli (2017), Sistercharlie (2018-19), and Rushing Fall (2020).
Pocket Square, a 4-year-old Night of Thunder filly, is a group 3 winner preparing for her third North American start. She won a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Keeneland in April but was fifth as the 5-2 favorite in the Just a Game on a turf course rated good.
“She missed her last work (before the Just a Game) with the storms that came through and maybe the softish turf didn’t help. I really thought she was lined up really well going into the Just a Game, and I was hopeful she could overcome, but things just didn’t work out,” Brown said. “She’s come back and worked really super, so I’m drawing a line through it and going right back at another grade 1 with her.
“I know she ran well in Europe that way (on good-firm ground), but I think she’s more effective on a firm turf course from what I’ve seen in her training,”
Lemista won four straight races in Ireland, two of them group stakes, between fall 2019 and last summer. The daughter of Raven’s Pass finished second in her first U.S. start, coming up half a length short to grade 1 winner Harvey’s Lil Goil (also entered in the Diana) in the May 8 Beaugay Stakes (G3T) at Belmont.
“She’s a top-class filly. I have high hopes for her,” Brown said of Lemista. “We’ve been pointing for this race for a while and I’m excited to get to it. I think that the time has done her well. She’s been working consistently well.”
John Velazquez will ride Pocket Square from post 2, and Irad Ortiz Jr. keeps the mount on Lemista from post 7.
Harvey’s Lil Goil, owned by the Estate of Harvey A. Clarke and Paul Braverman and trained by Bill Mott, has made one start since her 4-year-old debut in the Beaugay. In Saturday’s inner turf test, the American Pharoah filly will try to rebound from a fifth-place effort in the June 4 New York Stakes (G2T) at 1 1/4 miles on yielding turf.
“It was very soft ground,” Mott said. “Some of our stakes have been run on really soft ground and it could have worked against her a little bit.
“(Cutting back) won’t hurt her I don’t think. She’s run well on that type of oval previously. She won the Queen Elizabeth (G1T) at Keeneland and she ran good in the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland and that’s a tight turf course, so I don’t think that will hurt her.”
Harvey’s Lil Goil won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Presented by Dixiana over 1 1/8 miles last fall at Keeneland before rallying to be third, beaten only a neck, in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) going 1 3/16 miles. Junior Alvarado will ride her for the fourth straight time Saturday from post 5.
Lael Stables’ Magic Attitude , a grade 1 winner trained by Arnaud Delacour that began her career in France, is also in the Diana. The 4-year-old Galileo filly won the 2020 Belmont Oaks and was third in the Queen Elizabeth II to cap her sophomore campaign. She won her second race of this season, the May 1 Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2T) at Belmont, before finishing seventh in the New York.
Madaket Stables, Tim and Anna Cambron, and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ La Signare is a grade 3 winner and will try to break through at the top level after placing in two grade 1s. Trained by Brendan Walsh, the 6-year-old Siyouni mare rallied to be second, beaten a half-length in the May 31 Gamely Stakes (G1T) over 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita Park. That effort followed a third-place finish in the April 10 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1T) at Keeneland.
Rounding out the field is Phipps Stable’s Vigilantes Way for trainer Shug McGaughey. The 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly was second, a half-length behind Mean Mary in the May 15 Gallorette Stakes (G3T) at Pimlico Race Course, then made the grade next out in the June 20 Eatontown Stakes (G3T) at Monmouth Park. The Diana will be her first race beyond the grade 3 level.