07/19/2014 6:09PM

Watchmaker: The way Diana unfolded somewhat disappointing


If you were to tell me before Saturday’s Diana Stakes that, after a clean break, Alterite and Tannery would be ahead of Somali Lemonade around the first turn, or that Strathnaver would be only a half-length behind Somali Lemonade at that same point, then I would have told you not to take the brown acid.

I’m sorry to have such a visceral reaction, but the Diana was a great Grade 1 event on paper – a race approaching Breeders’ Cup levels – and it’s a bit tough to see it run in such weird fashion, because it deserved better.

That isn’t meant to take anything away from Somali Lemonade, who was multi-dimensional enough to move away from the front-running tactics that worked so well for her in her last three starts, and rate, and win. But it is to say that I’m not sure taking the Diana result as conclusive is the right thing to do.

Beyond Somali Lemonade, I’m not going to hold Strathnaver or Tannery’s performances against them because I just think they want no part of the trips they got, and are far better than they showed. Stephanie’s Kitten’s fast closing effort proved she is far from done dealing. Discreet Marq, despite almost winning, but after pulling a trip she could have only dreamed of, proved that she really isn’t a true nine-furlong horse in real Grade 1 company. And while Alterite might merit a pass in what was her first start in 8 1/2 months, I was concerned with her late collapse even if she was employing an alien running style, and think she should be viewed with skepticism going forward.

Sanford runners-up ran well in defeat

Saturday’s Sanford was a crazy race, won by Big Trouble, who, without trying to diminish his game effort, was probably only third best. Cinco Charlie was tremendously game to finish as close a third as he did after disputing hot fractions of 21.65 and 45.17 seconds. And Mr. Z, in particular, was a very unlucky loser.

Mr. Z ran right up on the heels of the front-runners late on the far turn, forcing him to check and lose momentum at a critical point. To his credit, Mr. Z re-rallied, but then had to bull his way out for room from between rivals in upper stretch. That resulted in Mr. Z bumping Big Trouble, an incident that might have caused Mr. Z to be disqualified had he won the Sanford photo, even if he got as much as he gave.

The final quarter of the Sanford was 25.47. It wasn’t fast, but it was nowhere near Schuylerville slow. More on that later.

Bettors pound Blame Jim

Blame Jim was bet like the second coming of Seattle Slew in Saturday’s fourth race, a 2-year-old maiden special weight that drew seven first-time starters. Blame Jim got the job done, but I suspect Blame Jim’s overwhelming parimutuel support was more a function of the limitations of his competition than any superstar abilities on his part.

Tourist should relish longer distance

Tourist confirmed his breakthrough win downstate at Belmont Park last month was the real thing with a very, very good victory in Friday’s Sir Cat Stakes. And even though Tourist’s  advantage shrunk somewhat in the late running,  thanks to a fine try from Ring Weekend,  trainer Bill Mott’s idea of stretching this colt out from a mile to 1 1/4  miles in next month’s Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington is a terrific one.

Tourist set a fairly solid pace in the Sir Cat, and yet as well as he ran, he can be even better when able to set the sort of more moderate pace usually found in longer turf races like the Secretariat. Tourist will be iron on the front end with that scenario.

Dettori starts out aggressive

Frankie Dettori’s aggressiveness was a big surprise in his first rides here at Saratoga, because you don’t expect an established and successful European jockey to be that flexible in terms of style. Of course, a huge component in any jockey’s success is securing good mounts, and Dettori’s early mounts, perhaps not surprisingly, were very live. Still, it is obvious that Dettori would be a prime threat to be leading rider at any U.S. race meet we have if he chose that path.

Schuylerville comes back with low Beyer

The 2-year-olds we saw Friday quite likely won’t be anywhere near the best 2-year-olds we will see later on at the meet. By the Moon did run pretty well finishing with determination winning her debut, but the Schuylerville was disappointing. Right after the Schuylerville, I was willing to give Fashion Alert and Take Charge Brandi a bit of a pass for walking home (final quarter in 26.57) because they went fairly quick early. But a winning Beyer of 68? Not inspiring at all.