07/26/2012 4:14PM

Saratoga: Tapitsfly could be loose on the lead again in Diana

Kim Pratt
Tapitsfly went wire-to-wire in the Just a Game. She could find herself in a similar position in the Diana.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Tapitsfly found herself loose on the lead over a speed-favoring course at Belmont Park on June 9 and took advantage of that scenario to register her first Grade 1 victory with a wire-to-wire win over Winter Memories and Hungry Island in the Just a Game. The question is, will a similar scenario develop when the same trio, along with defending champion Zagora and a pair of intriguing European invaders, assemble Saturday at Saratoga for the Grade 1 Diana.

Tapitsfly, who became a graded-stakes winner for the first time in her career earlier this season when capturing the Grade 2 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park, broke from the rail and never looked back in the one-mile Just a Game, maintaining a comfortable 2 1/4-length advantage over Winter Memories at the wire under jockey Ramon Dominguez.

She’ll be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario in the Diana.

“That was a big deal, getting the Grade 1 out of the way,” said Dale Romans who trains Tapitsfly for owner-breeder Frank Jones. “Now if you get a Saratoga Grade 1 it’s even more impressive for her r é sum é . She came out of the race super and hasn’t trained any better in her life than she has in the last 90 days.”

Naturally, Romans is hoping Tapitsfly will again be able to relax on the lead when attempting to successfully stretch out to a mile and one-eighth for the first time in the Diana.

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“We’re just going to let her ramble again,” Romans said. “Having the lead is always good. There are no excuses. If somebody hooks her we’ll both be in trouble, but if they let her go, hopefully she can get the distance. We’ll find out. Right now that’s our biggest concern, whether she can get the distance.”

Trainer Jimmy Toner, who sends out Winter Memories in the Diana, is fearful Tapitsfly will have things her own way up front in the rematch.

“It looks like Tapitsfly is going to be able to control the pace again on Saturday,” said Toner. “But it is what it is. I can’t change my game plan. We just have to take care of our own business.”

Winter Memories turned in one of the more memorable performances of the 2011 Saratoga meeting when she overcame all sorts of trouble to win the Grade 2 Lake George over a “good” course. She also captured Belmont’s Grade 3 Beaugay in her 2012 debut over yielding ground, so Toner, for one, would not mind a little precipitation prior to the Diana.

“She’s done some fantastic things, that’s for sure,” said Toner alluding to Winter Memories’s win in the Lake George. “She’s as good as she possibly can be at the moment and some soft ground would be good for me.”

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey sends Hungry Island, who finished third, four lengths behind Tapitsfly, in the Just a Game. McGaughey is confident his Grade 2 winner will be able to make up that margin when the pair meet again on Saturday.

“I don’t think the turf will be quite as fast as the last one and it’s going a little farther,” said McGaughey. “We broke a little flat-footed the other day and it kind of took us out of our game plan. I’m not sure anybody was going to beat Tapitsfly that day, but I kind of like our chances going a mile and an eighth.”

Zagora gave Chad Brown the first Grade 1 win of his training career when rallying to a 1 1/2-length decision over Aruna in the 2011 Diana, and he’s confident she can successfully defend her title despite the fact she has been idle since capturing the Grade 3 Gallorette at Pimlico 10 weeks ago due to a popped splint.

“I think the time may have done her well,” said Brown “She’s already had four starts this year, so there’s plenty of fitness there and she’s carrying the best weight I’ve seen on her all year. I got to tell you, she’s training good. She likes the course, she likes the tight turns, and I’m going for the win. I don’t have any pressure to run from the owner. I’m running because I want to run. I certainly think she’s one of the top turf mares in the country, if not the best one here.”

Dominguez gave up the mount on Tapitsfly to ride Zagora in the Diana.

Dream Peace, a Group 2 winner in Europe who finished third in her North American debut last fall in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, and the English-bred Law of the Range complete the field.