Updated on 07/30/2011 7:33PM

Saratoga: Zagora scores first U.S. win in Grade 1 Diana

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Barbara D. livingston
Zagora finishes fast to win the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel won back-to-back editions of Saratoga’s Grade 1 Diana Handicap in 2001 and 2002. On Saturday, Frankel’s former assistant Chad Brown added his name to the roster of Diana winners by sending out Zagora to a 1 1/2-length victory over Aruna to earn the first Grade 1 victory of his training career in the $500,000 race.

Like Brown, Zagora was also registering her first Grade 1 win. A French-bred daughter of Green Tune, she began her career in Europe, where she was a two-time Group 3 winner with trainer Jean-Claude Rouged. Zagora, who had been winless in four previous U.S. appearances, is owned by Martin Schwartz.

Zagora benefited from a perfectly judged ride by Javier Castellano, who rode her for the first time in the 1 1/8-mile Diana. Castellano allowed Zagora to settled in mid-pack while racing within easy striking distance of pacesetter and 9-5 favorite Unbridled Humor, who set a leisurely pace over a good turf course. Zagora commenced her bid four wide entering the stretch, overtook Bay to Bay near the eighth pole, then after forging clear easily withstood a belated rally from Aruna.

Bay to Bay, who gained a brief lead in early stretch after stalking the early leader, finished another neck further back in third, while Unbridled Humor faded to be seventh in the field of nine older fillies and mares. Romacaca was scratched earlier in the day.

Zagora completed the distance in 1:49.19 seconds and paid $13.60.
      
“It was very special for me to win my first Grade 1 race at Saratoga,” said Brown, a native of nearby Mechanicville. “It was also very special for it to come in the Diana, because it was one of my mentor Bobby Frankel’s favorite races. He loved the Diana, and we won it a couple of times when I worked for him.”

Brown said he was a bit concerned about the slow pace, especially with the previously undefeated Unbridled Humor on the lead.

“Javier did a lot of homework for this race,” said Brown. “Plan A was to sit third in the pocket, but Plan B was not to push her off the bridle, just let her settle and wait to make a run, and Javier followed it perfectly. Instead of moving on the last turn, he waited until straightening away.”
     
Trainer Graham Motion felt the slow pace may have compromised the chances of both his fillies, Aruna and Unbridled Humor.

“I was afraid there wasn’t much pace and that Unbridled Humor might wind up on the lead, and I’m not sure that’s what she wants to do,” said Motion. “I thought Aruna ran a very good race considering.”