Diversify earns Grade 1 glory with gate-to-wire victory in Jockey Club Gold Cup

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

NYRA/Coglianese Photos

By Sarah Mace

Lauren and Ralph M. Evans’ Diversify, by New York-based sire Bellamy Road (Dutchess Views Farm), delivered a career performance Saturday when he posted a wire-to-wire victory in the storied Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Diversify joins Funny Cide (2004) and Haynesfield (2010) on the roster of New York-bred winners of the Jockey Club Gold Cup since the inception of the New York-bred breeding and racing program in 1973.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1, $6 million Classic on November 4 at Del Mar, but the connections have not decided whether to make the trip. “We did pick up the ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Classic today, but we’re going to enjoy today’s race and give it a couple of days,” said trainer Rick Violette. “I’ll talk it over with Lauren Evans and Ralph Evans and we’ll come up with a decision next week.”

On the face of it, there were formidable obstacles in Diversify’s path to victory Saturday. The 4-year-old gelding was being asked to go a furlong further than he had before, and he faced a gigantic class test — the Jockey Club Gold Cup was his graded stakes debut. Finally, Diversify was going up against a deserving 6-5 favorite in Keen Ice, winner of the Grade 2 Suburban on July 8, and runner-up to Gun Runner, the presumptive favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 5.

Diversify did, however, catch a break when he drew the inside post. For 1 1/4-mile races, the Belmont starting gate is placed early on the clubhouse turn, giving horses on the inside a couple of jumps on the competition if they break alertly. A horse on the outside, like Keen Ice in post seven, is guaranteed to lose some ground in the early stages.

Diversify, 7-2 second choice, took full advantage of the one-hole, popping out of the gate alertly, and opening up two lengths in a flash. Regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. was then able to moderate the pace, as they led the field though early splits of 24.17 and 47.74 with Pavel and Rally Cry vying for second two lengths back.

Traveling comfortably just off the rail along the backstretch, Diversify faced mild pressure around the far turn, and was asked for more with three-sixteenths to go. Keen Ice had advanced into second from sixth and was looming a threat.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

In late stretch, Ortiz kept his mount gamely to his task and corrected Diversify’s inclination to get out with a right-handed whip. In the end, Keen Ice was left with just too much to do, and Diversify nailed down the victory by a length.

Keen Ice finished 3 1/4 lengths clear of Pavel, who was followed across the line by Good Samaritan, Destin, Rally Cry and Highland Sky. After clocking a mile in 1:36.08, Diversify’s final time for 1 1/4 miles was 2:00.96. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“He’s a good horse and he’s improving,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He’s growing up and he was that good today. He was ready to run today. He was challenged and responded. Before, he used to play a little bit and would wait for horses. He doesn’t do that as much anymore, so he’s getting better.”

Violette said, “We couldn’t have dreamed of a better scenario. The first quarter, going in twenty-four [seconds] was ideal.”

The conditioner continued, “He’s done nothing but get better from the early summer until now. He’s always been a nice horse, but he’s certainly jumped into the major leagues here today. [Keen Ice] might’ve moved a little earlier than he wanted to because we were always loose on the lead. The pace certainly made the race for us. My only instructions to Irad was to ride him like he rode him in Saratoga.”

Diversify came into the Jockey Club Gold Cup in the midst of an excellent campaign, in which he finished second by a nose in the Commentator in May, and earned back-to-back triple-digit Beyers winning Belmont’s Saginaw and Saratoga’s Evan Shipman Stakes.

Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding and foaled at Majestic View Farms in Gardiner, Diversify is the only winner to date out of Rule One, a placed daughter of Street Cry (IRE), whom Hertrich bought at the 2010 Keeneland November sale for $57,000. Rule One has a 2-year-old filly by Data Link and was bred to More than Ready this year.

Diversify graduated from the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale, where he sold to Maverick Racing for $150,000. Unraced at two, he flashed talent from the start, opening his account in 2016 with four straight front-running victories in routes. Diversify earned a “TDN Rising Star” designation after September 22 allowance win for WinStar Farm LLC.

Offered as a racing prospect at the 2016 Keeneland November sale, Diversify was purchased by Lauren and Ralph Evans bought him for $210,000 and opted to stay with Violette, the gelding’s original trainer.  The $450,000 winner’s share of the Jockey Club Gold Cup purse boosted Diversify’s earnings to $775,425.


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