Downpour? Delay? Slop? Not a problem for Diversify, wire-to-wire Whitney winner; “Biscuits” completes NY-Bred exacta

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

NYRA/Amira Chichakly

By Sarah Mace

Trainer Rick Violette felt in his heart that Ralph M. and Lauren Evans’ Diversify was ready to turn in a characteristically brilliant performance in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney Handicap Saturday, but Mother Nature’s curve balls are beyond the power of any trainer to anticipate. So, when the lightning flashed, and heavens opened up on the horses in the paddock, leaving them to wait out a 44-minute delay, Violette wondered what effect that would have on his charge.

Like the true professional he is, the 5-year-old gelded son of Bellamy Road (Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions) seemed unfazed. He circled patiently in the paddock under the care of Violette’s soaking assistant Melissa Cohen, was eventually united with his regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., got out to the track (which was downgraded from “fast” to “good” to “sloppy” during the storm) and did what he does best: wired a field of top-notch competitors.

Primed to go and sent off to travel nine furlongs as the 8-5 favorite and 124-pound co-highweight, Diversify bounded out of post six at the bell, and in no time cleared the field and put a length between himself and his nearest pursuer, 52-1 longshot Dalmore. Cruising through an opening quarter in 23.22, Diversify extended his lead to two lengths as the half ticked by in 46.50.

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

As Diversify began to draw off in the far turn, late in the bend Ortiz asked for a little more and Diversify had the answer. The 5-year-old gelding drove to wire and, without a challenge, recorded a 3 1/2-length victory in a final time of 1:49.62.

Star New York-bred sprinter Mind Your Biscuits, trying two turns and nine furlongs for the first time, closed well from mid-pack to finish second, a half-length ahead of Discreet Lover. Completing the order of finish were Tapwrit, Good Samaritan, McCracken, Backyard Heaven and Dalmore.

“[Diversify] was a little nervous, but he was feeling good [in the paddock],” said Ortiz. “They sealed the track, and I think that helped him a little bit. I have no complaints. I wanted to be on the lead. He did everything right for me. He was ready.”

Asked whether he was worried about facing Mind Your Biscuits’ notorious turn of foot in the stretch, Ortiz said, “I knew somebody was going to be coming, no matter what. 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.”

A visibly emotional Violette said, “He is such a cool horse. 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.”

As to the race strategy, Violette said, “I felt the outside of the track was playing better than the inside [earlier] and I thought maybe sealing the track in the rain might have even it out a little bit, and I felt better about that. We planned on being very aggressive, period, and see what would happen. If it were to be a mistake, so be it.”

Violette originally thought he would skip the Whitney in favor of the Woodward to give the gelding a little more time to recharge after his dazzling performance in the Suburban, but Diversify’s demeanor and interim work convinced him otherwise.

“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.’”

The Whitney is Diversify’s second career Grade 1 victory, to add to last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup. It was also his second straight lights-out performance following a tour de force score in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7. The Whitney win brought Diversify’s earnings to $1,959,425 and improved his record to 10 wins and two seconds from 15 lifetime starts. The Whitney is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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 brought $150,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale. Unraced at two, he 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. The couple opted to stay with Diversify’s original trainer Violette.

As the winner of the Whitney Handicap, Diversify joins an elite group, becoming the third New York-bred to win the storied race. Fio Rito, the first horse bred in the Empire State to win a Grade 1 race, won the Whitney in 1981. It wasn’t until Commentator came along in 2005 that another New York-bred landed in the Whitney winner’s circle. The legendary chestnut replicated the achievement in 2008.




Leave a Reply