Saturday’s $500,000 Diana (G1) shaped up as a tricky contest on paper, with four well-credentialed Chad Brown trainees in the 1 1/8-mile turf affair. But In Italian dominated her better-fancied stablemates using tactics of brutal simplicity. Speeding straight to the lead for Joel Rosario, the 8.30-1 chance set fast fractions and held sway in a course-record 1:45.06.
Peter M. Brant’s In Italian went off as the best-priced of the Brown quartet. Brant’s hitherto unbeaten Bleecker Street was the 4-5 favorite, while Saratoga aficionado Technical Analysis ranked as the 3.80-1 second choice. French Group 1 veteran Rougir, co-owned by Brant in partnership with Michael Tabor, was the slight third pick at 3.90-1.
Perhaps In Italian was discounted as a pace player who was coming off a pair of losses to other Brown stalwarts. Yet the Dubawi blueblood had performed well in defeat. In Italian held the runner-up spot behind impressive Speak of the Devil in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), and she was third to division leader Regal Glory in the Just a Game (G1). The lightly-raced four-year-old was stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Diana, and proved a revelation at the distance.
In Italian took no prisoners as she winged through splits of :22.45, :45.83, and 1:09.50 on the firm Mellon turf. Her pace appeared too strenuous to maintain. Indeed, her nearest pursuers, Godolphin’s British shipper Creative Flair and Al Stall’s Dalika, paid the price for chasing.
Technical Analysis, who settled a few lengths back in fourth early, looked like working out the most favorable trip. Advancing into second on the far turn, the Klaravich Stables colorbearer took aim on In Italian upon straightening.
In Italian wasn’t done. On the contrary, the British-bred continued her ferocious momentum to the wire, and Technical Analysis had to settle for second, 1 1/2 lengths adrift. In Italian shaved 0.16 off the former Mellon course mark (1:45.22) established by Hard Not to Like, the 2015 Diana heroine who rallied from off the pace.
“It looked like she had the speed on paper,” Rosario recapped. “It looked like there were other horses with speed too on paper, but Chad told me to let her break and go on into the first turn and she put herself forwardly placed. She was nice and relaxed in front and ran a big race.
“It looked like she was going very easy. It looked like she was enjoying everything and it was easy for her.
“She was able to turn loose going for home and just took off again.”
Jose Ortiz, aboard Technical Analysis, saw that second take-off.
“I thought at the top of the stretch when I got out (I had a chance),” Ortiz said, “but then she (In Italian) re-broke and that was it.
“She (Technical Analysis) ran a very good race. I’m very proud of her. She got beat by a horse than ran very hard and went fast early and re-broke. That’s very hard to do, but In Italian did it.”
Bleecker Street rallied from last to take third, edging Rougir by a neck in a clean sweep of the superfecta for Team Brown. Dalika checked in fifth, and Creative Flair was a tailed-off last.
Irad Ortiz Jr., Bleecker Street’s rider, noted that it was tough to make up ground on the top two.
“She had a little too much to do,” Irad said. “They never came back to her. They kept on going; it was a fast race.”
In Italian rewarded her loyalists with $18.60 while boosting her record to 7-4-2-1, $591,220. The chestnut had also wired her stakes debut in the March 5 Honey Fox (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Brown explained the Diana game plan after Rosario and In Italian executed it to perfection:
“We had a plan. She was training super in the morning. She’s been the lead horse in the works for Regal Glory two or three weeks in a row at Belmont. I’ve been so impressed with her not letting Regal Glory by her, who I regard as the top mare in the division just slightly over Bleecker Street. So, her not letting her by in the work and finishing up right on even terms and not giving an inch showed me that’s really the way she wants to run, and she’s ready for a top effort.
“I instructed Joel to just try to make the break. I told him to, ‘Go and don’t worry about it. If you give her a little breather down the backstretch, fine, but she’s going to run the race of her life today,’ and she sure did. We had a good feeling.
“I’m just so lucky to have so many great horses in the division. When you can work them together and put them into different situations in their morning drills, I can really see when they’re in peak form and I can identify their preferred way to run. Again, she’s been holding as high company as you can in the mornings with Regal Glory and she ran to her works today.
“They separate each other when you run them together. My approach is, I would rather run them against each other and settle it on the track than start to cherry pick who’s running and who’s not and a bunch of ‘what ifs’ if I ran the one I didn’t run. I like to run the horses against each other, settle it out on the track, and this day it worked out this way. We’ll see if they meet in the future and maybe someone turns the tables; we’ll see.”
Bred by Fairway Thoroughbreds and purchased for approximately $610,171 as a Tattersalls October yearling, In Italian is out of Australian Group 3 vixen and multiple Group 2-placed Florentina. That Redoute’s Choice mare is a half-sister to Group 1 scorer Gathering, from the all-star family of Hurricane Sky, Umatilla, Al Maher, Manhattan Rain, Platinum Scissors, Rubick – and Redoute’s Choice himself. Thus Florentina sports the Rasmussen Factor of inbreeding to a superior female, in her case a 3×3 duplication of Dancing Show.