May 26, 2024

Althiqa, Summer Romance renew rivalry in Diana; dozen juveniles vie in Sanford

Althiqa wins the Just A Game S. 2021
Althiqa wins the Just A Game S. 2021 at Belmont Park (

Diana S. (G1) — Race 10 (6:16 p.m. ET)

Saturday’s $500,000 Diana S. (G1) at Saratoga will be the setting for another intramural battle between the Godolphin-owned fillies Althiqa and Summer Romance, who have served as the other’s toughest rival this season.

While Althiqa has come out the better of the two in their showdowns over a mile, in the Jan. 28 Cape Verdi (G2) at Meydan and the June 5 Just a Game (G1) at Belmont, the Diana distance of 1 1/8 miles perhaps could favor Summer Romance, who handed Althiqa a three-length loss over the same distance in the Feb. 18 Balanchine (G2) at Meydan.

Trainer Chad Brown has won the last five editions of the Diana, with such champions as Lady Eli, Sistercharlie, and Rushing Fall. The Group 2-winning Lemista has the potential to emulate those fillies following a solid second-place run behind Harvey’s Lil Goil in the May 8 Beaugay (G3), which was her first start since September and first on U.S. soil.

“She’s a top class filly. I have high hopes for her,” Brown said. “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.”

Brown also saddles Pocket Square, fifth as the 5-2 favorite in the Just a Game.

Harvey’s Lil Goil, who captured the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) last fall, followed up her season-opening win in the Beaugay with a dull fifth-place run in the 1 1/4-mile New York (G2), though trainer Bill Mott thinks the soft conditions might have worked against her

“Some of our stakes have been run on really soft ground and it could have worked against her a little bit,” Mott said.

Also exiting an unplaced finish in the New York is Magic Attitude, who previously captured the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay (G2) by three lengths.

The field is rounded out by La Signare, second in the Gamely (G1) when last seen, and Vigilantes Way, who captured the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth Park last out as a lukewarm favorite.

Sanford S. (G3) — Race 9 (5:40 p.m. ET)

The dozen juvenile males entered in the $150,000 Sanford S. (G3) over six furlongs include 10 last-out maiden winners, as well as the second- and third-place finishers in the June 4 Tremont S. at Belmont.

The Tremont pair of Kavod and Trust Our Journey will have to improve to beat recent graduates like Wit and Ottoman Empire, who scored for first-crop stallions Practical Joke and Classic Empire with rallying victories at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, respectively.

“What I really liked was how he handled the shock that a lot of young horses get when breaking from the gate for the first time,” trainer Tom Amoss said of Ottoman Empire. “When they all break at the same time and get that experience, they get dirt kicked in their face, which is a lot for a young horse to take in.

“I really liked how he finished. He had a bit of a wide trip but he still finished up nice and strong.”

Others expected to take some support at the windows include Candy Landing, who sprung a 17-1 upset in his 4 1/2-length debut win at Churchill for Brendan Walsh, and the Wesley Ward-trained Headline Report, a son of Gormley who graduated way back in late April at Keeneland.

“We’re excited about that guy,” Ward said. “He’s been coming along pretty well.”