Reigning champion turf mare Sistercharlie, last seen wrapping up an Eclipse Award in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), reasserted her divisional leadership with a repeat victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1) at Saratoga. In her absence through the first half of the season, stablemates Rushing Fall and Homerique had scored major wins, but both succumbed to the champion as she led home a Chad Brown trifecta at the Spa.
Owned by Peter Brant, who also campaigns Sistercharlie’s half-brother, recent French Derby (G1) hero Sottsass, the 9-5 second choice had pace help from fellow Brant colorbearer Thais. The fourth of the Brown entrants, Thais sported blinkers on the rail, and it was clear what her job was. The 38-1 longest shot on the board outsprinted Mitchell Road through a swift opening quarter in :22.10 on the good inner turf, then opened up on her when reaching the half in :45.90.
Mitchell Road was herself well clear of the main body of the field. Rushing Fall, the 8-5 favorite, was reserved in third, one spot ahead of Sistercharlie. Secret Message bided her time in fifth, and the unhurried Homerique (yet another Brant runner) brought up the rear. By the time Thais clocked six furlongs in 1:11.51, the pack was closing in.
Rushing Fall pounced at the top of the stretch, but Sistercharlie was winding up for Hall of Famer John Velazquez. The defending champion overpowered her stablemate inside the final furlong and drew off by 1 3/4 lengths, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.93.
While Sistercharlie stated her intent on the road to a Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf title defense, Rushing Fall reiterated her case for Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) consideration.
Homerique closed stoutly for third, just a neck off Rushing Fall, and looks primed to return to a longer trip. Another three lengths back in fourth came Secret Message, followed by Mitchell Road. Thais crossed the wire a further eight lengths adrift in last.
Sistercharlie, the fourth distaffer to score back-to-back wins in the Diana since it was transferred to turf, joins Hush Dear (winner of a division in both 1982 and 1983), Glowing Honor (1988-89), and Forever Together (2008-09). In its former incarnation on dirt, two-time Diana winners included *Miss Grillo (1946-47), Searching (1956 and 1958), Tempted (1959-60), and Shuvee (1970-71). Brown was winning his fourth straight Diana, and fifth overall.
Bred in Ireland and initially raced in France, Sistercharlie captured the 2017 Prix Penelope (G3) and finished an unlucky second in the French Oaks (G1). The daughter of Myboycharlie was an encouraging runner-up in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) in her American premiere, only to be sidelined by illness. She returned in sparkling form to land the 2018 Jenny Wiley (G1), and after a near-miss in the New York (G2), rattled off three straight in the Diana, Beverly D. (G1), and Breeders’ Cup. Sistercharlie extended her streak to four on Saturday, enhancing her bankroll to $2,850,454 from her 12-8-3-0 line.
As Sistercharlie is set for a big second half of the season, half-brother Sottsass (by Siyouni) looks to keep the family’s momentum going in Europe. Trainer Jean-Claude Rouget is preparing the course record-setting French Derby winner for a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). Another half-sibling, Group 3 vixen My Sister Nat (by the European sire Acclamation), recently placed third for Brown in her U.S. bow at Belmont June 22. All are out of the prolific Galileo mare Starlet’s Sister.
Quotes from NYRA
Winning trainer Chad Brown: “Another great performance from a great mare. She showed why she’s the best. Peter (Brant) made the decision to come back and race her another year. He’s a great sportsman and he loves seeing this horse run. We were going to start her campaign a little earlier in the year, and she got sick on us. We had to wait and he was very patient. She just hit all her works right leading up to this race.
“(Rushing Fall) ran a good race as well. A mile and an eighth may be stretching it for her, and she went all the way to the wire with Sistercharlie. It’s unfortunate one of them had to lose, but that’s the way I do it.
“I want the horses to run against each other. I don’t want any speculation on who might have won, I just like to let them settle it on the track. They are two great horses and I’m sure you’ll see more Grade 1 wins from Rushing Fall as well.
“It’s very special. We knew going into the race we had the top three choices, but then for all of them to run the way they did and finish one-two-three is remarkable. It’s unfortunate any one of them had to lose. They all ran winning races, but that’s why we ran them. We wanted to settle it on the track.”
“We had a nice pace setup from the stablemate and Johnny knows this mare so well. He also did a great job. I loved where she was throughout the trip. I was worried she was going to be too far back coming off the layoff. She’s done that in some of her races where she was very far back. I was very comfortable where all my horses were on the backside. It set up as I expected with these three horses coming down the lane, particularly Sistercharlie more than likely running at Rushing Fall at the wire.”
Winning rider John Velazquez: “She normally breaks slow. I made sure to get her a nice position passing the wire for the first time, making sure that the other horse didn’t put me in behind her. Javier’s horse (Rushing Fall with Castellano) was the one to beat in my eyes and once I was behind him and relaxed where I thought was in a good position, I bided my time a little bit. By the three-eighths pole, it was time to go, and I know she takes a bit to get going, so I’d rather go wide and get her going than to stay behind the other horses and not get there. It was a great effort by her.”
This running of the DIANA Stakes was an impressive compact field of 6 Fillies or Mares that have collectively won 8 Grade I’s.