SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Lauren and Ralph Evans’ Diversify broke like a rocket from the gate, ran his early competitors into the ground, then took off in the stretch drive to wire Saturday’s Grade 1, $1,200,000 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga.
The Whitney is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Diversify receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Set forth with a fire under his tail as the 8/5 favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Diversify quickly took command and crossed over to the rail. Dalmore, Backyard Heaven, and Tapwrit ran three-wide behind him while attempting to keep up, but Diversify’s scorching opening splits of :23.22 and :46.50 prevented them from doing so. Nearing the far turn, those three had each dropped off, but Mind Your Biscuits was beginning to make a solid run. Hitting the top of the stretch, Diversify was given his cue, and the race was over from there. The Rick Violette trainee drew off over the sloppy (sealed) main track surface to win convincingly in a final time of 1:49.62 for the 1 1/8-mile event.
“I wanted to be on the lead,” said Ortiz, Jr. “He did everything right for me. He was ready. 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.”
Mind Your Biscuits’ first attempt at a two-turn race was good, but not good enough, and he had to settle for second behind his fellow New York-bred. Discreet Lover appeared from out of the blue and rallied late to take third. Tapwrit continued his string of off-the-board stakes performances and settled for fourth over Good Samaritan and McCraken, while Backyard Heaven and Dalmore weakened to finish seventh and eighth, respectively.
Diversify’s win was his third straight in 2018 and his second career Grade 1 score following last fall’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old gelded son of Bellamy Road has gained a reputation for favoring tracks in his home state, as all 10 of his career wins have come on the NYRA circuit. With an overall record of 15-10-2-0, Diversify has now bankrolled $1,959,425, almost all of which has come since the Evanses purchased him for $210,000 from WinStar Farm late in his 3-year-old season.
Following a similar wire-to-wire performance last out in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, Violette had initially targeted the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes (at Saratoga on September 2) for Diversify’s next run, but a 59-second 5-furlong breeze in his first training session after the Suburban was enough for his connections to supplement him as a late Whitney entry.
“He did too well not to run here,” Violette said. “Everything he did said run. He ate well, he shipped up here well, he breezed well last Sunday and came out of it good, his blood work came back well, so (I said), ‘OK, stupid, stop being a chicken and run him.'”
Diversify returned $5.20 to win, $3.30 to place, and $2.80 to show. Mind Your Biscuits brought back $3.90 to place and $3.20 to show, while Discreet Lover paid $6.60 to show.