The 80th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Stakes is part of a magnificent opening weekend race card at historic Saratoga Race Course. Of the seven entered, five are grade one or grade two stakes winners. It may be tough to decide which one leads that quintet, as both A Raving Beauty (GER) and Sistercharlie (IRE) have won at the top level this year.
A Raving Beauty (GER) won the Just A Game Stakes in June and Sistercharlie (IRE) was victorious in the Jenny Wiley Stakes in April. Proctor's Ledge captured the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile Stakes in May before a runner-up effort in the Just A Game and fits here. New Money Honey won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2016 and a pair of graded stakes last year including the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational. However, she sat on the sidelines for the last six months of 2017, returning to beat a weak allowance field last month and may not be good enough to handle this competition yet.
Hawksmoor (IRE) won the Grade 2 New York Stakes in the spring of 2017 and makes her third start after a long layoff and a poor effort when she stumbled at the start in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes in May. Ultra Brat won the Grade 3 Gallorette Stakes on a soft course in May but finished 10th in her only previous grade one stakes try. War Canoe rounds out the field.
Hawksmoor (IRE) is the one to catch in the Diana Stakes, and in my opinion that makes her the one to beat. In her North American debut in the fall of 2016, Hawksmoor (IRE) nearly posted the upset when coming up a head and nose short on the wire in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes before a poor race and the winter off. Returning last May, she led from start to finish in the Beaugay Stakes before an even stronger effort winning the New York Stakes leading every step of the 10-furlong trip.
Following two runner-up efforts in top company in the First Lady Stakes and Matriarch Stakes last fall including a career-best 114 Equibase Speed Figure in the latter race, Hawksmoor (IRE) took the winter off once again. In her 2018 debut, she settled off the pace in second and battled nose-and-nose to the wire but came up inches short at the finish. Shipping from trainer Delacour's east coast base for the Gamely Stakes at the end of May, Hawksmoor (IRE) was highly regarded as the even money favorite but a stumbling start cost her any chance at the lead she likes to have and she ran fifth from beginning to end.
In the Diana, there is no real need-the-lead type except this mare and in a seven horse field, jockey Leparoux will have the luxury of going to the lead from the start and establishing a leisurely pace or sitting in second if another horse and rider wants the lead more. As a horse that likes the lead, and considering that Hawksmoor (IRE) can run the last quarter mile about as fast as any other horse in the race (22.7 seconds in the First Lady Stakes), she should be able to continue in front to the wire and win this race.
A Raving Beauty (GER) has done nothing wrong since coming to North America from Europe, winning the Beaugay Stakes in May with a 108 Figure followed by a win in the Just A Game Stakes last month. In the Just A Game, A Raving Beauty (GER) improved to a 112 figure and may still have improving to do in her third start off the seven and one-half month layoff from October to May. Although both her races in the U.S. were shorter than the mile and one-eighth distance of the Diana, A Raving Beauty (GER) should have no problem with the nine furlongs which she won at last August in Germany and so she must be given a lot of respect as a contender to win this race.
Sistercharlie (IRE) has also done little wrong since importing to the states last summer, missing by a neck to New Money Honey in the Belmont Oaks Invitational before taking time off. When she returned this past April, Sistercharlie (IRE) ran as if she had never been away from the races, rallying from eighth to win the Jenny Wiley Stakes and earning a career-best 117 figure that is the best of any entrant in this race. She ran nearly as well last time out in the New York Stakes when rallying from almost 30 lengths back to come up a nose short on the wire with a 110 figure. Shortening up from a mile and one-quarter to a mile and one-eighth for the Diana, Sistercharlie (IRE) should be putting in a strong late run and it may just be a question of how much ground she has to make up on likely early leader Hawksmoor (IRE) and how much gas that filly has left in the tank if allowed to lope along on an easy early lead.
The rest of the Diana Stakes field, with their best figures, is New Money Honey (113), Proctor's Ledge (116), Ultra Brat (108) and War Canoe (94).
A Raving Beauty (GER)
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