May 26, 2024

Althiqa catches Summer Romance again in Diana

Althiqa wins the Diana Stakes (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

A change of venue, stretch-out to two turns, slower pace, and wider trip made no difference to Althiqa, who once again bested her Godolphin stablemate Summer Romance in Saturday’s $500,000 Diana S. (G1) at Saratoga. The Charlie Appleby duo reprised their roles from the June 5 Just a Game S. (G1) around Belmont Park’s one-turn mile.

Bettors believed that the added ground of the 1 1/8-mile Diana, combined with a more favorable pace scenario, would help frontrunning Summer Romance turn the tables. After all, that was exactly what happened during the Dubai Carnival. Althiqa beat Summer Romance in the metric mile of the Cape Verdi (G2), but Summer Romance gained revenge in the about nine-furlong Balanchine (G2).

Accordingly, Summer Romance was dispatched as the 2.70-1 favorite. Althiqa went off as the fourth choice at 3.95-1, behind the 3.65-1 Harvey’s Lil Goil and the 3.85-1 Lemista.

But such a calculation didn’t take into account Althiqa’s improvement. Assistant Sophie Chretien, who has monitored both Godolphin fillies throughout their American sojourn, noted that Althiqa has blossomed.

“Summer Romance didn’t take the rematch with Althiqa,” Chretien told NYRA publicity, “but what I realized with Althiqa with all the time she’s been with us, she’s becoming stronger physically and mentally. Summer Romance is a lot more of a nervous filly.”

That temperamental factor showed when Summer Romance was restless in the gate. Yet she still broke alertly and dictated the pace through splits of :23.57, :48.17, and 1:11.84 on the good inner turf. Vigilantes Way attended, while Althiqa was reserved further back by Manny Franco.

Into the stretch, Summer Romance put away Vigilantes Way. Fellow stalkers Harvey’s Lil Goil and Pocket Square could not make a dent either.

Then Althiqa pounced on the outside. Unlike her inside play in the Just a Game, she covered 34 feet more than Summer Romance in her wide-trip Diana, but even that differential wasn’t enough to affect the result. Althiqa overtook her stablemate by a cozy three-quarters of a length, clocking 1:47.65 to answer the distance question.

“I just wanted to wait as long as I could because I knew the distance was further than the last race,” said Franco, who was riding Althiqa for the first time. “That was the question, but she did it. They didn’t tell me much. They just told me to cover her and follow somebody until I made my move. I think that was the key; that she was so relaxed behind horses and then she gave me a nice move and nice kick.”

“She was good but she got beat,” said Luis Saez, who was back aboard Summer Romance. “I feel like she ran her race. I knew the 4 (Vigilantes Way) had speed and was going to go with me, but that was the race.”

La Signare checked in another 1 3/4 lengths adrift in a troubled third. In good position early in the tracking flight with Pocket Square and Harvey’s Lil Goil, she was shuffled back on the rail at a crucial point. La Signare not only lost lengths, but also time as she had to wait to follow Althiqa’s winning move. In the circumstances, she did well to snatch third.

Harvey’s Lil Goil was a one-paced fourth, another neck back. Pocket Square was the same margin away in fifth, followed by Magic Attitude, Vigilantes Way, and Lemista.

Althiqa’s second Grade 1 score boosted her earnings to $736,830 from her 11-6-2-3 record. The daughter of Dark Angel captured last summer’s Prix Amandine at Deauville and placed in the Prix de Lieurey (G3), Sceptre S. (G3), Oak Tree S. (G3), and Eternal S. She lifted her game in Dubai before coming stateside.

“It’s a great feeling,” Chretien said of Godolphin’s follow-up exacta in the Diana. “It’s my first time coming to America and you don’t know the tracks, but these horses are smart. You just have to listen to them.”

Althiqa is a British homebred out of the stakes-winning Shamardal mare Mistrusting. Second dam Misheer was a high-profile juvenile when taking the 2009 Cherry Hinton S. (G2) and placing in the Queen Mary S. (G2) and Cheveley Park S. (G1).

Pedigree would leave some scruple about Althiqa over the 1 3/8-mile configuration of the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Del Mar. But with her running style, and the flat, firm conditions that don’t put as much of an emphasis on stamina as in Europe, perhaps the gray can answer that question too.