Lauren and Ralph Evans’s 5-year-old New York- bred gelding Diversify shot the lead in the $1.2 million Whitney (G1) at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday and never looked back, winning the 1 1/8-mile race over a sloppy track by 3 ½ lengths over Mind Your Biscuits, and became the fourth horse to qualify for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this year through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 85 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2-3.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Diversify to start in the Classic. Breeders’ Cup also is providing a $10,000 travel allowance for all horses based outside of Kentucky to compete in this year’s Championships.
Diversify, the 8-5 favorite trained by Rick Violette and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr, joins Kazumasa Yamada’s 6-year-old gelding Nonkono Yume (JPN), winner of the one-mile February Stakes (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 18; Reddam Racing’s 4-year-old Pavel, who won the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on June 16, and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables’ 3-year-old Good Magic, who won the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 29 as the other Classic qualifiers thus far.
Following a 41-minute weather delay, Diversify broke on top from post 6 in the eight-horse field and raced two paths off the rail around the first turn and set solid fractions of 23.22, 46.50 and 1:10.70 through three-quarters of a mile, building a 3 ½ length lead over 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit. Mind Your Biscuits began a concerted drive in third place and went five paths wide around the far turn to try and engage the leader, but was no match for Diversify, who completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.62. Discreet Lover finished third and was followed in order by Tapwrit, Good Samaritan, McCracken, Backyard Heaven and Dalmore.
“He is such a cool horse,” said Violette. “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. We planned on being very aggressive, period, and see what would happen. If it were to be a mistake, so be it.”
Diversify, a bay son of Bellamy Road out of Rule One by Street Cry, won his 10th race in 15 starts and earned his third victory in four starts this year. He came into the Whitney off a sparking 6 ½-length win in the 1 ¼-mile Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park on July 7. Prior to that, he won the restricted one-mile Commentator Stakes at Belmont by a nose. He finished seventh in the Charles Town Classic (G2) on April 21.
Following the Suburban win, Violette was pointing Diversify to the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Sept. 1. Those plans changed, however, when Violette believed that Diversify was sitting on a big race.
“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 [breeze] good, his blood work came back well, so [I said], ‘OK, stupid, stop being a chicken and run him.’”