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Miss Temple City faces Brown quartet plus five in contentious Diana

By Vance Hanson

Even though superstar Tepin is sitting this one out, Saturday’s $500,00 Diana (G1) at Saratoga has still come up a corker of a race.

Chad Brown has four of the 10 fillies and mares in the 1 1/8-mile grass feature and Todd Pletcher saddles two, but a plurality of eyes will be on Miss Temple City, who upset males in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland in April.

The Graham Motion charge joined Tepin on an excursion to Royal Ascot last month. While the reigning queen of the American turf bravely prevailed in the Queen Anne (G1) on opening day of the five-day fixture, Miss Temple City endured an interesting trip in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) on day two. Steadied at the start and lacking room at one point over the straight mile, the four-year-old finished a one-paced fourth, just as she had in last year’s Coronation (G1) over the same course.

“I’ve been very happy with how she’s come back from England, otherwise I wouldn’t be racing her,” Motion said. “She’s had a good month and I couldn’t be happier with her. You wonder if the trip might affect her, running against those conditions. But I don’t see any negative effects that it’s had on her. I felt like when she came back to America, I targeted the Diana, and everything fell into place.”

The Brown contingent is a strong one, led by recent New York (G2) winner Dacita. That 10-furlong test was the Scat Daddy mare’s first win since taking the Ballston Spa (G2) in her U.S. debut last August at Saratoga, where she edged Tepin by a head. She remains the last horse to beat the world-acclaimed mare.

Also lining up for Brown are Wekeela, runner-up in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and Gamely (G1) in her first two U.S. outings; Mrs McDougal, who captured the Lake George (G2) over this course last summer and was most recently third in the Just a Game (G1); and Grade 3 winner Rainha Da Bateria, second to Tepin in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) two back.

Pletcher’s duo includes the speedy Isabella Sings, second to Tepin in the Hillsborough (G2) and recently a dual stakes winner at Monmouth, and the multiple graded stakes winner Sandiva, who makes her first outing since early April.

The Jimmy Toner-trained Recepta was second best behind Celestine in the June 11 Just a Game, an improvement over her troubled third to Strike Charmer in the Beaugay (G3) the previous month. The Speightstown mare impressively won the $100,000 De La Rose over Saratoga’s inner turf last year.

Strike Charmer, who sizzled in her Beaugay victory, lost plenty of early position in the Just a Game and finished a dull eighth for Mark Hennig. The Shug McGaughey-trained Onus is capable of delivering a visually-strong effort, but seemingly needs firm ground to produce her best.

The historic $150,000 Sanford (G3) drew a field of only five two-year-old colts and will be run as the third of 11 races Saturday. Random Walk and Bitumen both won on debut easily at Belmont and Churchill, respectively, while Zartera, who also won at first asking in Kentucky, is from the family of Saratoga Special (G2) winner Cuvee.

Todd Pletcher, looking to win the Sanford for a seventh time, saddles Monmouth debut winner Bronson.

(Coady Photography)