DIANA STAKES | PURSE: $500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
Somali Lemonade passed one Grade 1 winner in deep stretch and held off a two-time Grade 1 winner at the wire to win the $500,000 TVG Diana Stakes July 19 at Saratoga Race Course.
Caroline Forgason's homebred Somali Lemonade, a 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare, passed early leader Discreet Marq in deep stretch and then held off a late charge from Stephanie's Kitten to secure the first Grade 1 win of her career. She topped a field of 10 older fillies and mares that included five Grade 1 winners.
Somali Lemonade registered Grade 3 wins at age 2, 3, and 5 and has changed running styles this season. After starting her career as an off-the-pace runner, Somali Lemonade has shifted to a front-running style this season since trainer Michael Matz added blinkers in her 2014 debut.
With her new approach, Somali Lemonade earned a Grade 1 placing in her previous start when she led the Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park into the stretch before fading to third. In the Diana, Somali Lemonade pressed from just off the pace, racing third within two lengths before finding another gear in the stretch.
"She's won on the lead, she's won from behind," Matz said. "I think she's just a good filly and she showed it today. It was a pretty tough group that she ran against today. I don't know if it was the blinkers, I don't know if it was maturity, but she's doing really well right now."
Somali Lemonade and jockey Luis Saez, who has been aboard every start this year, launched their move with three furlongs remaining, and lengthened stride near midstretch, catching last year's Del Mar Oaks winner Discreet Marq inside the sixteenth pole. Somali Lemonade had just enough to earn the neck victory over a flying Stephanie's Kitten and Frankie Dettori.
Somali Lemonade completed the 1 ⅛-mile race on the firm inner turf in 1:48.51 after Discreet Marq set a contested pace over favored Alterite with quarter mile fractions of :24.37 seconds, :49.84 seconds, 1:13.96, and 1:37.06.
The winner returned $24.60 to win, $11 to place, and $7.40 to show. Stephanie's Kitten paid $6.60 and $4.60, while Discreet Marq returned $6.50.
Abaco finished fourth, followed by Solid Appeal, Strathnaver, Caroline Thomas, Alterite, Emollient, and Tannery.
Stephanie's Kitten hit the board for the first time since finishing third in last year's Diana. Trainer Chad Brown was encouraged by the effort.
"I thought she ran terrific; probably needed a little more pace up front," Brown said. "She just ran out of ground. I thought she ran a dynamite race."
Brown also saddled Alterite, who made her first start since finishing third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Despite the layoff, bettors sent the Grade 1-winning daughter of Literato off at 5-2. Martin Schwartz's Alterite pressed Discreet Marq in second to mid-stretch but, perhaps needing the race, then faded to eighth.
"I was disappointed she tired like she did," Brown said. "We were a little cautious about her maybe being a little short for this race, but I thought it was worth a shot. She got a beautiful trip up close, stalking a slow pace, but she really got tired the last eighth. But we'll regroup and find out what the next spot is for her."
Kentucky-bred Somali Lemonade is the first Grade 1 winner for her dam, the Nureyev mare Chic Corine, who also has produced stakes winners Rasta Farian and Kris's Dancer.