The $500,000, Grade 1 Diana Stakes is the first major race on what promises to be a fantastic summer season at historic Saratoga Race Course. Although only drawing a field of six, there is no lack of class or will to win among the group which has a combined 31 wins in 73 career starts on grass and over $3 million in earnings.
Leading the group is Bleecker Street, who is undefeated in seven races including a victory in the Grade 1 New York Stakes last month. Creative Flair comes in from Europe off a win in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes in her first start as a 4-year-old and could be a superstar in the making. Technical Analysis brings a strong record of five wins in nine starts, including three graded stakes, most recently the Grade 3 Gallorette Stakes. Rougir won the Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes in May before a fifth-place finish behind Bleecker Street in the New York Stakes. Dalika, in spite of seven months off, ran very well last month when setting the pace before she settled for second in the Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes and she’s another entrant who fits at the highest level for female horses on the turf. In Italian won the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes in March and has since finished second in the Grade 2 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile and third in the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game Stakes.
Not only is Bleecker Street undefeated in seven career starts going back to last August, she appears to have the most powerful late kick in the field – and whether the early pace is fast, or even exceedingly slow, she should be tough to hold off. Her last four wins came in graded stakes, including two at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Diana. The first of those was in the Hillsborough Stakes in March where Bleecker Street earned a career-best 113 Equibase Speed Figure. Although she earned 109 and 103 figures, respectively, in the Modesty Stakes Presented by TwinSpires and New York Stakes since then, the manner in which she won those races suggests there is little to keep her from remaining undefeated. In the Modesty, Bleecker Street lagged in eighth among nine horses for most of the race but, when asked to run hard after entering the stretch, ran the final eighth of a mile in 11.2 seconds. Cutting back from a mile and a quarter distance in the New York Stakes to this slightly shorter trip in Saturday’s Diana gives this exceptional filly some extra oomph in the late stages – and under North American leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. we might see an even more visually impressive effort in the Diana.
Creative Flair has run seven times in Europe and twice in the U.S., and the latter two efforts were mediocre as she finished third in the Saratoga Oaks Invitational and fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational last summer. However, she appears to be a much better horse this year as a 4-year-old as evidenced by her only start of 2022. In the Balanchine Stakes in February, Creative Flair beat nine other horses with a big effort that earned a 110 figure. That effort came at the same distance of the Diana Stakes and can be bettered now that she’s even more physically and mentally mature. When sending horses to race in North America, trainer Charles Appleby has an incredibly strong record of 13 wins (and eight runner-up finishes) in 34 starts over the last five years, perhaps most importantly with Althiqa in last year’s Diana Stakes. As such, Creative Flair appears to be the horse most capable of putting an end to Bleecker Street’s winning streak.
Technical Analysis has done little wrong in nine races, winning five and finishing second or third in three of the other four. She enters this race off a superb pattern as she is making her third start since coming back from six months off and has earned 107 and 106 figures, respectively, when second in the Plenty of Grace Stakes in April followed by a win in the Gallorette Stakes in May. She won both her races on the Saratoga grass last season, and her win in the Lake George Stakes came from off the pace and while her win in the Lake Placid Stakes was earned leading from start to finish. She drew the ground-saving rail for the Diana, and it is likely Technical Analysis will take control of the race from the start and try to duplicate her wire-to-wire Gallorette effort. Doing so is certainly not out of the question.
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Dalika (112), In Italian (101) and Rougir (124).
Win Contenders in preference/probability order: