Althiqa Shines in Gr.1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga
It was a familiar scene at Saratoga on Saturday as stablemates Althiqa and Summer Romance were the first two fillies across the finish line in a Grade 1 race on the New York turf.
The Godolphin pair completed the exacta in the $500,000 Gr.1 Diana Stakes the first of 20 grade 1s at Saratoga Race Course this summer. Althiqa collected her second consecutive grade 1 win over Summer Romance after taking the Longines Gr.1 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park last month. The fillies, both age 4 and conditioned by British trainer Charlie Appleby, have run four straight races together.
Appleby’s assistant Sophie Chretien was also on hand to celebrate the stable’s accomplishment.
“We’ve been in America since the first of May; it’s the 17th of July and we had two big targets in grade 1s and we just couldn’t do better,” Chretien said.
Summer Romance didn’t take the rematch with Althiqa, but what I realized with Althiqa—with all the time she’s been with us, she’s becoming stronger physically and mentally.
“It’s a great feeling,” Chretien said of winning at Belmont and Saratoga. “It’s my first time coming to America and you don’t know the tracks, but these horses are smart. You just have to listen to them.”
Similar to the one-mile Just a Game Stakes, Summer Romance commanded the early pace under Luis Saez setting fractions of 23.57 and 48.17 on good turf. Althiqa, who broke from the outside with Manny Franco in the saddle for the first time Saturday, was seventh of eight through the first quarter-mile and moved up to sixth by the half. Vigilantes Way was a half-length off the lead in second, and Pocket Square raced another length back in third ahead of La Signare and Harvey’s Lil Goil . Lemista and Magic Attitude joined Althiqa near the back of the field.
Summer Romance, the 5-2 favorite, continued to lead through six furlongs in 1:11.84, at which point Althiqa was fifth, and a mile in 1:35.65. Althiqa was called on by Franco at the quarter pole and after turning four wide into the home stretch, she unleashed a devastating turn of foot that carried her to the lead.
“I just wanted to wait as long as I could because I knew the distance was further than the last race,” Franco said. “That was the question, but she did it. They didn’t tell me much. They just told me to cover her and follow somebody until I made my move. I think that was the key; that she was so relaxed behind horses and then she gave me a nice move and nice kick.
“She’s a pretty nice filly. I’m glad I was on her today and thank you to the trainer and the owner.”
The winning daughter of Dark Angel has had 11 career starts and earnings of $741,213. She was a debut winner at Thirsk in May of her 2-year-old year, then returned 13 months later to win at Newmarket. She won her first stakes race two starts later at Deauville before placing in a trio of group 3 races between England and France. Althiqa began the current season at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, where she won the Gr.2 Cape Verdi Presented by Longines and was third in the Gr.2 Balanchine Sponsored by Range Rover won by Summer Romance and has progressed to become a dual Gr.1 winning filly on American soil.