Friday, 27 July 2012
: High class mare Zagora will take on a tough field the when she aims for a title defence in the G1 Diana Stakes on the turf at Saratoga on Saturday.
Her rivals include the top three finishers from the G1 Just A Game and a pair of talented runners from Europe.
Last year's Diana marked the first G1 win for both Zagora and trainer Chad Brown. Since that race, Zagora has won three from five starts, all coming in G3 contests.
She failed to fire when fifth in the G1 Jenny Wiley in April at Keeneland but regained the winning thread in her most recent start, rallying from last of seven to take the Gallorette on May 19 on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
"She came out of the Gallorette with a popped splint, and we freshened her for a couple of weeks to fix that," explained Brown.
"She caught a slow pace in the Jenny Wiley and she's 0-for-3 at Keeneland. It's not her course, otherwise she's been perfect this year."
Zagora will have to track down Tapitsfly, who blazed on the lead and rebuffed Winter Memories in the stretch to win the one-mile Just A Game on June 9 at Belmont.
Trainer Dale Romans expects Tapitsfly to employ similar front-running tactics on Saturday.
"I hope that she'll relax as well as she did in the Just A Game," Romans said.
"I doubt there will be enough speed to run with her so she'll probably do the same thing."
Trainer Jimmy Toner fears his charge Winter Memories, second in the Just A Game, will once again have to try to track down a free-running Tapitsfly but sees the extra furlong as being in his mare's favour.
"I don't know if Tapitsfly will go 1 1/8 miles but if you have the same scenario as last time, she will go that far.
"I don't see any pace in the race, truthfully. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, it could be the same scenario all over again."
Also exiting the Just A Game is Hungry Island, who picked up to finish third after racing farther off the pace than usual.
Hungry Island defeated Winter Memories in last year's G2 Lake Placid and took the G2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile in May at Churchill Downs.
The Diana will see French mare Dream Peace have her first start in North America since she finished third as the favorite in the G1 E. P. Taylor last October at Woodbine.
The Robert Collet-trained mare has raced twice this year for fourth in the G3 Prix Allez France at Chantilly in April and eighth against males in the G1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji on May 20.
Also crossing the Atlantic is Law Of The Range, a Listed winner and G3-placed in England. She enters the Diana off a sixth in the G2 Windsor Forest on June 20 at Royal Ascot.
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