The connections of a pair of turf females who just missed major scores in their previous starts, Emollient and Strathnaver, hope for better July 19 in the $500,000 TVG Diana Stakes on the first Saturday of the Saratoga Race Course meeting.
Juddmonte Farms homebred Emollient returns to New York for the first time since last September for the 1 ⅛-mile inner turf test after a trip west in which she finished second by a nose to Miss Serendipity in the Gamely Stakes May 26 on the Santa Anita Park turf. The 4-year-old Empire Maker filly will be looking for the fourth grade I victory of her career when she makes her Saratoga debut against an expected nine other fillies and mares Saturday.
Andrew Stone's Strathnaver also came up just short in her previous race when Coffee Clique edged her by a nose in the Longines Just a Game Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 7. The close second at odds of 17-1 denied the 5-year-old Oasis Dream mare her first grade I score.
DIANA STAKES DRAW
"The Just a Game progressed us to the Diana. It was not something I was necessarily thinking about," said her trainer, Graham Motion. "The filly has won at a mile-and-a-half, and she just got beat in a Grade 1 going a mile, so it would seem very logical that this would be a really happy medium for her. Perhaps I was a little bit surprised how well she handled the mile. This would seem more natural to her in my eyes."
The accomplished field features four other Grade 1 winners.
The speedy Discreet Marq also enters the Diana out of the Just a Game, where the 4-year-old Discreet Cat filly finished fourth as the 5-2 choice. Last year Patricia Generazio's Discreet Marq secured a grade I win in the Del Mar Oaks. Trained by Christophe Clement, the fourth-place finish in the Just a Game snapped a 10-race stretch, all stakes, in which Discreet Marq finished in the top three. She won half of those races.
Last year's Garden City Stakes winner Alterite will make her first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. Trained by Chad Brown, Martin Schwartz's Alterite, a French-bred by Literato, will break from post 8 in her 4-year-old season debut.
"She's been doing well and training well," said Brown, whose first career grade I win came in the 2011 Diana with Schwartz's Zagora. "I would have liked to get her a prep before this race, but I didn't have time. She seems to be training really well, and we're going to give it a shot and run her off the layoff.
"I'm not running unless I think I have a chance to win," he added. "It's a tough race, and running off a layoff in a grade I is a tall order. But she's a filly with a ton of ability and a ton of class, so we'll see what happens."
Starting just outside Alterite will be her stablemate, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Stephanie's Kitten, who will be looking for her first victory since the 2013 Just a Game. Frankie Dettori will be on hand to try to help the two-time Grade 1-winning daughter of Kitten's Joy snap her three-race skid.
And starting from the outside will be Richard Santulli's Tannery, who captured last season's E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine. The 5-year-old Dylan Thomas mare enters off a runner-up finish in the New York Stakes June 28 at Belmont Park. Tannery is trained by Alan Goldberg, who captured last year's Diana with Laughing.