JCGC winner Diversify rebounds with outstanding Commentator score

Monday, May 28th, 2018

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

A wire-to-wire winner of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last October and returning to state-bred company for the first time after a trio of graded races, Lauren and Ralph Evans’ Diversify was unquestionably the class of Monday’s $200,000 Commentator Stakes at Belmont Park.  Still, on paper at least, the 5-year-old Bellamy Road gelding did not appear to be a shoo-in to win the capstone of the Memorial Day Big Apple Showcase card at Belmont Park. What’s more, he had a big question to answer about his most recent effort.

First, the dynamics of the one-turn, one-mile race on paper seemed tricky for Diversify, whose most effective weapon is speed. He was destined to have plenty of company on the front end, with at least four rivals likely to come out gunning. Diversify did catch one break, however, with the race-day scratch of veteran Weekend Hideaway, who wired the last two runnings of the Commentator and beat Diversify by a nose in last year’s renewal.

Diversify also needed to prove that his performance last out in the Charles Town Classic on April 21, his first start back after a winter break, was a fluke. In his first experience with Charles Town’s “bull ring,” the gelding perplexed everyone by running dead last as the 6-5 favorite. Trainer Rick Violette found nothing wrong with him after the race and could only conclude, as he told NYRA commentator Maggie Wolfendale, that the 5-year-old was too smart for his own good. Unaccustomed to the 3-turn format of the race he appeared to rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. to have pulled himself up after two turns

Even with these factors at play, bettors made Diversify their 2-1 favorite and went to Pat On the Back, who was arguably the best closer in the field and going out for the first time for Jeremiah Englehart, as the 4-1 second choice

Partnered with the Jose Ortiz on Monday, Diversify did not have an auspicious start, stumbling after the bell. Recovering efficiently, however, he set up as a stalking third in the three path, tracking Jewel Can Disco at the rail and Mr. Buff in the two-path two lengths off the leader.

After the pacesetter clocked a half-mile in 45.22, just past the three-eighths pole Diversify pulled even with the front pair and gained a narrow lead, emerging at the quarter pole a half-length to the good and the horse to catch after six furlongs in a testing 1:09.33.

Ortiz knew the closers would be on their way and urged his horse to open up a little more ground as a cushion in upper stretch.

In the final furlong Pat On the Back closed menacingly on the outside, eating into Diversify’s lead with every stride and coming to within a half-length with a sixteenth to go.

Diversify’s answer was to dig in and give his all. His gameness was rewarded by a nose win after a fast mile in 1:34.34. Pat On the Back in second finished 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Uncle Sigh, who closed from midpack to finish third. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“[Diversify] stumbled out of [gate],” said Jose Ortiz. “I didn’t want to take him out of his game. He relaxed pretty well. At the three-eighths pole, I went after them, and when he made the lead, he pricked his ears, so I knew he had something left in the tank. [Pat On the Back] ran a very good race. Any other day, we would’ve won by ten.”

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Violette found the race a bit of a nail-biter even after the finish. “I thought we won it, then I watched the replay again and ‘whoa’.”

Continued Violette, “When [Weekend Hideaway scratched], it actually was a good scratch for us. That led to us to either having to take hold or commit if he had stayed in there, so it worked out well.”

The conditioner also pointed out that Diversify is more versatile than one would think: “He’s certainly very effective on the lead, but he doesn’t have to be there. The 1-2-3 all had pretty good speed, and with the post position, you see what develops, and if they tap on the brakes like everybody did last year, it works out well.”

As to the winning move in the far turn, Violette said, “I was worried about the whole [field] joining the fray. I thought, ‘well, it’s a little early,’ but Jose [Ortiz] was right, sometimes you got to let the horse do it.”

Violette will point Diversify next to the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7.

Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding and foaled at Majestic View Farms in Gardiner, Diversify is one of two winners out of Rule One, a placed daughter of Street Cry (IRE), whom Hertrich bought at the 2010 Keeneland November sale for $57,000. On February 16 of this year Rule One foaled a colt by More Than Ready.

Diversify is a graduate of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale, where he sold to Maverick Racing for $150,000. Unraced at two, Diversify flashed talent as soon as he got to the racetrack, opening his account in 2016 with four straight front-running route victories and earning 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 for $210,000 and opted to stay with Violette, the gelding’s original trainer.

Approaching the million-dollar threshold with $934,425 in earnings, Diversify has won eight times and finished second twice. The Commentator is his fourth stakes victory, to be added to the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Saginaw Stakes and Evan Shipman.

Diversify’s New York-based sire Bellamy Road, currently stands Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions in Stillwater.





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