SARATOGA SPRINGS — Chad Brown’s streak hit five because Rushing Fall’s streak hit four.
The 5-year-old mare, second to stablemate Sistercharlie in the Grade I Diana last year, endured a spirited duel the length of the stretch to beat early pacesetter Mean Mary by a neck in the Diana at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday.
That gave Brown five straight victories in this race, while putting Rushing Fall in rarefied air as a Grade I winner in four straight seasons, dating back to her victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2017.
“You see the company she’s in, Beholder, special horses that were before my time, to have a horse in that company and be in the business for five, six years, is really something special,” owner Bob Edwards of e Five Racing Thoroughbreds said.
“She knows how to win,” Brown said. “She’s a remarkable horse. You talk about a horse that’s won a Grade I in four straight years, that’s very rare company to do that. She’s a horse of a lifetime for anybody, for a trainer, an owner, racing, so we’re very fortunate that Bob Edwards and his family put her back in training.
“The last race of the year was not good, she’s worth a lot of money, he could’ve easily sold her or bred her. They gave her the time off, we sent her down to Stonestreet in Ocala, which we’ve been doing with her every winter. And my team got a hold of her and took it from there and executed like they always have. And the filly really came through. She’s special.”
Rushing Fall’s victory gave Brown six total in the Diana, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Elliott Burch for the most wins since the first running of Saratoga’s most important and prestigious turf race for fillies and mares in 1939.
Zagora gave Brown the first Grade I victory of his career as a head trainer in the 2011 Diana, and he had won the last four with Sistercharlie (2019, 2018), Lady Eli (2017) and Dacita (2016).
In her attempt to win three straight on Sunday, the late-running Sistercharlie couldn’t catch the speed horses in front and settled for third in her second start off an 8 1/2-month layoff, 2 1/2 lengths behind Mean Mary.
Brown’s domination in this race came at the expense of trainer Graham Motion, who has finished second in the Diana, a race he craves to win, six times now. And it’s usually close, once by a nose, twice by a head, once by a length and a half and Mean Mary’s valiant loss by a neck.
The start of the race was delayed for six minutes when long shot Secret Message reared in the starting gate, got tangled up and finally was able to get out of there. She was scratched, leaving the stellar field at five horses.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Mean Mary, who was 3-for-3 in 2020, all in graded stakes, got away well and had the upper hand on Rushing Fall and jockey Javier Castellano while still able to slow it down in the second quarter-mile.
“I expected to be on the lead, unless Mean Mary was really sending, and I could see the first quarter how she really wanted the lead, and when she backed us down, that’s what I was really scared of, maybe Javier getting in that trap giving up the lead early only to get backed down,” Brown said. “I didn’t want that. But he did a good job to engage her on the turn. He didn’t wait too long, and I think that paid dividends.”
“I was supposed to go to the lead,” Castellano said. “I broke out of the gate and tried to send to dictate the pace, but Mean Mary never took up and tried to take the lead. I tried to ride smart, it’s a mile and an eighth and I thought it was smarter to save something for the end.”
From his position in second and outside of Mean Mary’s path, Castellano picked his spot to move on the second turn, which set him up to duke it out once they straightened out in the stretch.
“She relaxed beautiful,” Saez said. “There was a little bit of a bad step at the three-eighths [mile marker]. That’s been happening a lot. Horses I’ve been riding, there’s a hole there, I don’t know. But she was still moving at that point, and the other one was right on top of me. She tried to come back. She got beat running.”
“I believe he was too close to the hedge trying to cut the corner, and that filly tried to respond and just kind of bobbled a little bit, and it took a little momentum away,” Castellano said. “Remember, that filly’s so big and maybe he was asking for too much. I think she lost some momentum, that’s why I kept coming at her.”
Rushing Fall got the smallest of noses in front inside the eighth pole and never relinquished the lead, but Mean Mary never gave up, either.
It was a huge victory for Edwards, whose lucrative business is pet pharmaceuticals and whose wife, Kristine, is a native of Saratoga Springs.
“To win in Saratoga is tough, to win a Grade I, the Diana, against this field is impressive,” he said. “She’s been a special horse for our family. You guys know my wife, she’s a Saratogian, she was born here, Pinkerton, Mexican Connection, the whole nine yards. So for the family, even if they’re not here, sitting back at the house, sucking some Coronas … this is a big deal for them.”
It was also a source of some relief for Brown, who had four Grade I or Group 1 winners in Saturday’s nine-horse Grade I Fourstardave and not only came up empty, but didn’t even get one of his horses in the top four.
“Look, there’s a lot of ups and downs in this sport,” Brown said. “That was shocking. Surprisingly disappointing. I still don’t quite understand why. Just kind of a weird day. The turf course, maybe? You’ve just got to draw a line through that kind of stuff and stick to your plan, stick to your process, and this horse was very well-prepared by my team. It was kind of a turn-the-page deal, and we came in today with a fresh day.”
He said he was encouraged by the performance of 2018 champion Sistercharlie, who was third to Starship Jubilee by a length and a half in her comeback race earlier in the meet, the Ballston Spa. Starship Jubilee finished fourth in the Diana, stopping a four-race winning streak.
“I thought she took a nice step forward towards the Breeders’ Cup today,” Brown said. “This turf course is very speed-favoring. It’s hard to imagine a scenario, no matter what the pace is, where she was going to be able to make up that much ground. That’s the way it’s played all meet. And I thought she ran much better today than she did in the Ballston Spa.
“We can potentially run her one more time before the Breeders’ Cup, and I can see her rounding into form at the right time. I was disappointed that she wasn’t right there at the wire, but not discouraged that she can’t get on track for the Breeders’ Cup. It was a good step forward.”
Reach Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.