07/26/2013 1:52PM

Steven Crist's Saratoga graded stakes analysis: Diana Handicap


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Saturday’s two Grade 1 races at Saratoga, the Diana for older turf females and the Prioress for 3-year-old filly sprinters, are very different propositions.

The Prioress has a towering favorite in Kauai Katie, two obvious next-bests in So Many Ways and Wildcat Lily, and some overmatched field-fillers whose connections would be thrilled to pick up a Grade 1 placing. The Diana, on the other hand, has nothing but top-class grass females, including four Grade 1 winners and last year’s runner-up, and is a far more intriguing handicapping puzzle.

Chad Brown trains half the field, but since Dayatthespa, Dream Peaceand Samitar have entirely different owners, they will run as separate betting interests. I’m not crazy about the latter two, but Dayatthespa is attractive on two counts: This is her third start of the year after a long freshening, and Brown expects to see her best race yet as a 4-year-old.

She may have more room for improvement than some of the others in here, and this is the spot where we’ll see if she’s going to move up from 3 to 4. Also, she appears the clear speed of the field and may be able to control the pace and get a tactical advantage.

I expect the strongest challenges to her down the lane to come from Stephanie’s Kitten and Centre Court. There’s nothing to knock about Stephanie’s Kitten, who already has improved from 3 to 4, except that she may be an underlay and did enjoy a dream rail trip winning the Just a Game in her last. Centre Court had a rocky trip running fourth as the favorite that day but was a gem of consistency before that and may offer slightly better value.

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