07/28/2010 4:17PM

Maram joins cast of seven for Diana at Saratoga

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Maram battles Strike the Bell (3) en route to a head victory at the Miss Liberty at Monmouth.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – A small but select field of seven, led by two time defending champion Forever Together, was drawn for Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga. The group of fillies and mares includes the late inclusion of 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Maram.

Chad Brown, tied with Todd Pletcher for the top spot in the trainer standings with three winners on opening weekend, said he wrestled with the notion of running Maram in the Diana for several weeks before ultimately deciding to pull the trigger and put her in the entry box.

“I was 50-50 about running her since she won her last start in New Jersey,” Brown said after entries were drawn early Wednesday afternoon for the 1 1/8-mile turf race. “The choice was to give her more time and wait for the Ballston Spa or run her in the Diana. But she’s been doing super, is 2 for 2 at Saratoga, and if she’s ever going to have a shot at winning a Grade 1, it will be here.”

Maram overcame an unlucky trip to win Monmouth Park’s Ms. Liberty on July 4.

“She had a nightmare trip. She was in trouble the whole way,” said Brown. “The only thing I was happy about the race was that she won.”

Maram will break from post 7 with regular rider Jose Lezcano aboard. The remainder of the field, from the rail out, consists of Proviso (Mike Smith); My Princess Jess (Cornelio Velasquez); Phola (Ramon Dominguez); Forever Together (Julien Leparoux); Dynaslew (Eibar Coa), and Shared Account (Edgar Prado).

Mambo Meister points to Vanderbilt

Mambo Meister spent the summer of 2009 stabled at Saratoga, where he ran in a pair of two-turn, Grade 2 stakes on the turf. When he returns to upstate New York this season, however, his first objective will be a sprint stakes on the dirt, the Grade 2 Vanderbilt going six furlongs on Aug. 8.

“He’s got to be the most versatile horse in America,” trainer Phil Gleaves said of Mambo Meister, who has already won three graded races this year in south Florida, two on the main track and one on grass, with all three of those victories coming around two turns.

Mambo Meister turned back to six furlongs for the first time in his career earlier this month, finishing a late-striding second despite some traffic issues behind Big Drama in Calder’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap. That performance gave Gleaves the confidence to wheel him back in the Vanderbilt.

“There’s really nothing at home for him during the summer, we knew we had to go on the road somewhere, and he really loved the environment at Saratoga last year,” said Gleaves. “All that went into the decision to bring him back up and try him in another sprint.”

Mambo Meister arrived by van from Miami on Sunday and will have his first and only work over the track prior to the Vanderbilt either Monday or Tuesday morning.

“He doesn’t need to do much,” said Gleaves. “He’s dead fit coming off his last start, especially with the bottom he had from all those two-turn races.”

Gleaves said regular rider Manoel Cruz will retain the mount in the Vanderbilt.

Mambo Meister will also have the opportunity to avenge his last setback. Trainer David Fawkes is also planning to send Big Drama up from Calder for the Vanderbilt.

“He’s 2 for 2 coming off the layoff and hopefully his third start will be his best yet,” Fawkes said of Big Drama, who registered a 1 1/4-length decision over Mambo Meister in the six furlong, Grade 2 Smile.

Big Drama drilled a sharp five furlongs in 1:00 at Calder on Monday.

“His work was phenomenal,” said Fawkes. “It was just supposed to be a maintenance breeze but he took the initiative and did it all on his own.”

Flamin’ Hot tunes up for overnight stakes

Flamin’ Hot, undefeated in four starts on the turf, drilled a sharp half-mile in 47.80 seconds over the main track on Tuesday for trainer Rick Violette. Flamin’ Hot, purchased privately by Violette for owner Ralph Evans earlier this year, notched his first stakes victory when elevated to first via the disqualification of Escrow Kid in Monmouth Park’s Anderson Fowler Stakes.

“I wanted to air him out and turn up the pilot light a little this morning since he kind of walked out of the gate and was content to stay at the back of the pack for a long while in his last start,” said Violette.

Flamin’ Hot, whose four grass wins have come at distances of five and 5 1/2 furlongs, is being pointed for a 5 1/2-furlong overnight stakes on the grass here on Aug. 7.

“We’ll try to stretch him out eventually but for now there’s no sense to change what is already working,” said Violette.

Zaphyra may try Ruffian

When a third-level allowance race failed to fill for Friday, that left the connections of Zaphyra contemplating a start in Sunday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Ruffian Invitational.

Zaphyra, who has yet to run in a stakes race, will be a longshot in the Ruffian, but her trainer, John Terranova, is confident the 1 1/8-mile distance of the race will benefit his filly.

“She’s doing really well,” Terranova said. “She’s a very nice filly who seems to be going the right way and the distance she’ll probably love,”

Zaphyra, a daughter of Victory Gallop, is coming off a second-level allowance win going a one-turn mile at Belmont on June 18. She has twice raced around two turns, winning a first-level allowance race over Aqueduct’s inner track in February before finishing second to a loose-on-the-lead Ampart Ridge in a first-level allowance race over the inner track on March 25.

A field of six is expected for the Ruffian, which offers a spot into the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs in November as part of the Breeders’ Cup’s Win and You’re In program.

Unrivaled Belle, who beat Rachel Alexandra in the La Troienne in April, heads the Ruffian field. Others pointing to the race include Malibu Prayer, Tasty Temptation, Classofsixtythree, and Starship Angel.

Negliee back in training

Terranova reported that the Grade 1 winner Negligee has resumed training after having a chip removed from an ankle following a third-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 3 Sands Point Stakes in May.

Terranova said Negligee is in light training at Saratoga and he is hopeful that she could return to the races later this year.

“We’re easing her back in, jogging and galloping,” Terranova said. “We’ll pick up the pace gradually over the summer. She’s one that gets real fit, real fast.”

Negligee, beaten in three starts this year, won the Grade 1 Alcibiades as a 2-year-old.

Rightly So preps for Ballerina

Rightly So, the 4-year-old New York-bred filly who won the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont on July 5, worked four furlongs in 47.55 seconds over Saratoga’s main track Wednesday morning. She is preparing for a start in the Grade 1 Ballerina here on Aug. 28.

“She loves Saratoga,” said Elisabeth Currey, assistant to trainer Tony Dutrow. “She’s very relaxed. She’s doing great. We’re looking forward to running her.”

Currey said that Rightly So had a “couple of easy weeks” following huge efforts in the Bed o’ Roses and the Grade 2 Vagrancy, a race in which she was beaten one-half length by Hour Glass.

Rightly So has won 6 of 10 starts, with her four losses coming by a combined two lengths.

– additional reporting by David Grening