Saratoga Picks: Ladies Take to Turf in Diana at Spa

A field of seven line up in Saturday's Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga. © Cheryl Quigley |

A field of seven line up in Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga. © Cheryl Quigley |

The first Grade 1 race of the 40-day Saratoga meeting is on tap on Saturday with a field of seven fillies and mares going to the post in the $500,000 TVG Diana at nine furlongs on the turf.

The race drew a solid field with the speedy My Miss Sophia the 5-2 morning line favorite. The Bill Mott trainee has just one turf race under her belt, beating second level allowance optional claimers on June 5 at Belmont Park in impressive fashion by 4 ½ lengths.

She faces a tough field that includes Grade 1 winners Tepin, Stephanie’s Kitten and Hard Not to Like as well as Grade 2 winners Waltzing Matilda and Lady Lara.

The co-feature on the first Saturday of the meeting is the $150,000 Sanford (G3) for two-year-olds going six furlongs on the main track.

Bashford Manor (G3) winner He’s Comin in Hot and Tremont victor Cocked and Loaded lead the field. Eight of the 11 juveniles in the field are exiting maiden races.

One of those is Uncle Vinny, who was well backed in his debut, easily beating four foes as the chalk, then last out was the beaten favorite in the Tremont. The colt was bumped coming out of the gate, raced at the back of the pack and weakened in the stretch to finish sixth at even money.

The son of Uncle Mo has come back with good works since his last outing and I am expecting a better effort here. The Todd Pletcher barn has won this race five times, the most recent with Overdriven in 2011.

Cocked and Loaded broke his maiden in his debut at Keeneland and then won the Tremont last out at 5-2 in his first go in stakes company. The runner up Paynes Prairie came back to break his maiden in his next outing on July 4 at Belmont Park.

The colt is in good hands with the Larry Rivelli barn that is hitting at a 29% clip overall in 2015. The colt prepped with a bullet drill at Arlington Park over polytrack.

Saturday’s Best Plays Report will include my strongest plays from Del Mar and Saratoga.

Let’s head out to the Spa for Saturday’s featured race of the day:


Saratoga Race 10 The Diana G1 (Post time 6:07 ET) 

4 Hard Not to Like   5-1

6 My Miss Sophia   5-2

2 Stephanie’s Kitten   7-2

7 Lady Lara   10-1

Analysis: Hard Not to Like is coming off a win in the Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita and returns off a two-month break. The runner up in that race was Fanticaola, who came back to win the Royal Heroine (G2) in her next outing on June 27.

She has won 7 of her 16 career starts on turf including the 2014 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland. Note that John Velazquez is off Stephanie’s Kitten to reunite with this gal and he booted her home a winner the last two times he took the call. Despite winning a Grade 1 last out it looks as if she may still get overlooked on the tote here.

My Miss Sophia tried grass for the first time last out and she wired the field to beat Alw-2 optional claimers. It was no surprise she took to turf, she is out of the stakes winner Wildwood Flower ($109,916) who has dropped two other turf winners as well as Grade 1 stakes winner Materiality ($686,028).

She is the main speed in the race and if she is able to shake loose early she may prove tough to catch. It looks as if longshot Kitten’s Queen is the lone runner that might give her a tussle early.

Stephanie’s Kitten was beaten just a neck in this race last year and by a half-length when third in 2013. She finished behind a couple of these last out in a fourth in the New York (G2) last out, beaten a length.

She makes her third start of the year and just needs some pace and a decent trip to be a danger here. Her 7-2 morning line looks fair enough but seems likely to go off lighter while she is picking up a new jockey in Irad Ortiz.


WIN: #4 to win at 4-1 or better.

EX: 4,6 / 2,4,6,7

TRI: 4,6 / 2,4,6,7 / 1,2,4,6,7


Michael Dempsey’s Saratoga Special:

Get Michael’s full card reports for Saratoga includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Get reports for the entire meeting between July 24 and Sept. 1. Michael’s Saratoga Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Mike has been handicapping the New York Racing circuit on a daily basis for nearly three decades. Saratoga runs six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.


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