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2015 Diana and Sanford Stakes

Hard Not to Like heads to the winner's circle after the Diana
Date: 07/25/2015

There were two graded stakes contested on the opening Saturday of the Saratoga summer meeting. Conditions were excellent with mostly cloudy skies, a fast main track and firm turf courses, and temperatures in the high 70's.

Down the stretch in the Diana
The $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1) featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) runner-up Stephanie's Kitten was sent off as the 2-1 favorite off her close fourth in the New York Stakes (G2). In to challenge her included 3-1 second choice Tepin, winner of the Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and Just a Game (G1), and 7-2 third choice My Miss Sophia, an allowance winner after finishing 5th in the La Troienne (G1).

Jockey Jose Ortiz sent 26-1 longest shot Kitten's Queen to a clear lead first time by and she set fractions of 23.54, 47.20, and 1:10.15 while pressed by My Miss Sophia and stalked by Tepin. Kitten's Queen contined to lead to the 1/8 pole through 1 mile in 1:33.20, but 6-1 Hard Not to Like, 4th early, came out 3 wide into the stretch to outfinish Tepin by a nose in a new course record time of 1:45.22 over the firm course. It was a neck back to Kitten's Queen third, while favorite Stephanie's Kitten checked in 5th.

Saratoga Opening Day - with the Lake George Stakes (G2) and Schuylerville Stakes (G3)
Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) - from Sunday

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 4   Hard Not to Like    Velazquez    14.40    5.90  4.70
 1   Tepin               Leparoux              4.20  3.20
 3   Kitten's Queen      Ortiz                       7.50

Winning Time:  1:45.22

$2 Exacta 4-1                68.00
$2 Trifecta 4-1-3           559.00
$2 Superfecta 4-1-3-6     2,585.00
Results Chart

Left: Hard Not to Like in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said, "I'm delighted she was ridden by Johnny Velazquez. He's a top jockey, and there's a reason why. He makes a difference. She got a superb ride and she's also a very good filly. At the 1/8 pole, I thought my chances to get a place, pretty good; to win, slim. The last 50 yards suddenly I got a bit excited because I thought, 'She's going to get there!' Remarkable ride from Johnny Velazquez. Life is good. We knew there was going to be a decent amount of pace. The ground is firm, and they never came back. They went fast all the way to the end."

Right: Hard Not to Like gets hosed off after the race.

Left: Hard Not to Like returns after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "This horse is much better now and is only improving. As the distance of the races got longer the better the horse became. The horse is a little small and doesn't have the speed to stay with the other horses in the first part of the race. The longer the race went on, the longer the horse's strides became."

Right: Second place finsher Tepin heads out for the post parade. Trainer Mark Casse said, "It's a heartbreaker. We've lost three or four Grade 1's this year by a nose. All I have to say is that she can run a mile and a eighth. All I've heard for the last two days is that she can't go 1 1/8. She can go 1 1/8."

Left: Third place finisher Kitten's Queen in the paddock before the race. The 26-1 longest shot set the pace under Jose Ortiz but was outfinished late getting third beaten just a neck. The Chad Brown trainee improved her record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 8 thirds in 21 starts, earning $354,444 for owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Right: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Stephanie's Kitten heads out for the post parade. The 2-1 favorite sat last 15 lengths off the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr. then rallied to get 5th beaen 2 3/4 lengths. The Chad Brown trainee has a record to 9 wins, 3 seconds, and 4 thirds in 22 starts, earning $2,757,104 for owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Uncle Vinny (far outside) finished behind Magna Light but was moved up to first by disqualification.

The $150,000 Sanford Stakes (G3) featured a field of 10 two-year-olds sprinting 6 furlongs on the main track. Tremont Stakes winner Cocked and Loaded was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 7-2 He's Comin in Hot, winner of the Bashford Manor (G3), and 4-1 Uncle Vinny, 6th in the Tremont.

Jockey Jose Ortiz sent 13-1 Magna Light to the front immediately and he set fractions of 22.52 and 45.98 over the fast track while pressed by He's Comin in Hot and stalked by 19-1 Percolator. In the lane, Magna Light continued to lead through 5/8 in 57.93, but ducked out at the 1/8 pole interfering with Percolator who had moved up to second. Uncle Vinny, 4th early, attempted to close by Magna Light held him off by 3/4 length in 1:10.92. It was 1/2 a length back to Percolator third, while Cocked and Loaded checked in 6th. Due to the incident at the 1/8 pole, the stewards disqualified Magna Light and placed him third, handing the win to Uncle Vinny.

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
11   Uncle Vinny        Ortiz Jr.    25.60   10.00  5.60
10   Percolator         Lanerie              11.20  6.10
 4   Magna Light        Bridgmohan                  3.50

Winning Time:  1:10.92

$2 Exacta 11-10              186.50
$2 Trifecta 11-10-4        1,548.00
$2 Superfecta 11-10-4-1   18,173.00
Results Chart

Left: Uncle Vinny heads out for the post parade. Winning owner Don Lucarelli said, "I really, really do feel bad for Rudy Rodriguez, Michael Dubb and all his connections because they really did run a winning race," said Starlight Racing partner Don Lucarelli. "It's unfortunate to have to win them this way. We ran huge, too, but Magna Light, today, was a better horse. Bottom line is, we get to cash a ticket. It is what it is."

Right: Uncle Vinny in the paddock. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "He was running coming down the lane. We were getting to the point where he was rolling from the eighth pole to the wire, and he inherited the win. Nothing I can say. He definitely was coming running. Magna Light ran a great race, too."

Left: Second place finisher Percolator in the post parade. The 19-1 shot stalked the pace in 3rd under Kendrick Carmouche but could not improve, finishing third beaten 1 1/4 lengths. The John Servis trainee improved his record to 1 win and 1 second in 2 starts, earning $50,520 for owners Main Line Racing Stable and John Servis.

Right: Third place finisher (disqualified from first) Magna Light crosses the finish line first. The 13-1 shot set the pace under Jose Ortiz, ducked out then drifted back in during the stretch causing interference to Percolator, then finished 3/4 length ahead of official winner Uncle Vinny. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee improved his record to 1 win and 1 third in 2 starts, earning $60,000 for owners Michael Dubb, Michael Imperio, Elizabeth Alexander, and Bethlehem Stables.

Left: The connections of Magna Light look pretty upset about the disqualification.

Right: Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Cocked and Loaded heads out for the post parade. The 2-1 favorite raced 5th early under Irad Ortiz Jr. but failed to rally finishing 6th beaten 3 1/2 lengths. The Larry Rivelli trainee has a record of 2 wins, 0 seconds, and 0 thirds in 3 starts, earning $160,600 for owners Richard Ravin and Patricia's Hope LLC.

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