Ralph and Lauren Evans' Diversify led a New York-bred exacta in Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney Stakes, leading the field throughout to cross the wire 3 1/2 lengths in front of Mind Your Biscuits. After waiting out a lengthy rain delay in the paddock, the 5-year-old gelding by Bellamy Road clocked nine furlongs over Saratoga's sloppy main track in 1:49.62. The 8-5 favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Diversify victory earned him an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. Trained by Rick Violette, the gelding has now won three in a row, including a route in last month's Suburban Stakes.
“He is such a cool horse,” Violette said. “Irad really threw down the gauntlet at the half-mile pole. He [Diversify] didn't quite drag him down there, but he [Irad Ortiz, Jr.] said 'Let's go' and dared anybody to catch up.”
The nine-horse field for the Whitney all filed into the paddock at the appointed time, but a sudden cloudburst confined them to that space for over 20 minutes as officials sealed the track waited for the thunder to subside. When they finally reached the starting gate, Diversify was sitting on go and out-broke his rivals to steal a one-length lead on the rail heading into the clubhouse turn.
Dalmore made an effort to go with the leader after a first quarter in :23.22, but Ortiz gave Diversify just another inch of rein and he pulled away to a two-length advantage down the backstretch. Tapwrit made a middle move to come up the rail into second as Diversify completed the half in :46.50, and Mind Your Biscuits was winding up from his customary late-running position heading into the far turn.
Diversify continued to cruise on the lead through six furlongs in 1:10.70, but Mind Your Biscuits looked to have dead aim on the frontrunner at the top of the stretch. Ortiz got lower in the saddle, asking Diversify for more and more, and the gelding responded; ridden all the way through the wire, Diversify crossed it 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Mind Your Biscuits. Longshot Discreet Lover got up for third, while Tapwrit faded to fourth.
“I knew somebody was going to be coming, no matter what,” Ortiz said. “It's a Grade 1, and there's nice horses who want to win the race. He proved he could keep going. Only nice horses can do that. He was steady; he wasn't dying at the end, he'd keep trying. He did it the right way.”
Mind Your Biscuits finished in the runner-up spot for the second Grade 1 contest in a row. The son of Posse was beaten just a nose by Bee Jersey in the Met Mile, but seemed to struggle with the surface in the Whitney. He was spinning his wheels a bit down the stretch, but dug back in at the eighth pole to hold second over Discreet Lover.
“I was real excited, I thought Diversify might get just a little bit tired, but Diversify just kept going. Great job by Rick [Violette], to have him ready,” said Mind Your Biscuits' trainer Chad Summers. “Rick and the whole staff over there did a great job. We just let him get a little bit too loose. We we're afraid of that. Our strategy, our plan was that if he got loose to just make a little bit of an early move and try and get to him and come up to him. We were too far back and he had too much left. Discreet Lover ran a great race too for Uriah [St. Lewis].”
Bred in New York by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Diversify was a $210,000 purchase at the Keeneland November sale of 2016. At that point, the gelding had won all three of his starts in allowance company, but had never been tried in stakes. By mid-2017, Diversify was winning New York-bred Stakes, and October, he took the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in his first try against graded company. This year, Diversify has won his last three outings, and now owns a spot to try for immortality in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Overall, Diversify has won 10 of 15 starts for earnings of $2 million.
“He did too well not to run here,” Violette continued, explaining his trepidation to run the gelding so soon after the Suburban. “Everything he did said run. He ate well, he shipped up here well, he breezed well last Sunday and came out of it [breeze] good, his blood work came back well, so [I said], 'OK, stupid, stop being a chicken and run him.'”
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