November 30, 2023

Diversify wires rain-delayed Whitney in effortless score

Diversify winning the Whitney Stakes (G1) with ease over a sloppy Saratoga track (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

by Teresa Genaro

Given the torrential downpours that hit Saratoga Springs, New York, overnight, and a forecast for more afternoon rain, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the last two races, both on the turf, were canceled on Saturday, August 4, at Saratoga.

However, nobody bargained for another downpour to hit as the horses were in the paddock for the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (G1), a “Win & You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

The horses were held in the paddock, and the rain let up, and then it poured again, and then it let up. Finally, a half-hour after the original post time, the eight-horse field headed to the track, wet and undoubtedly tired after interminably circling in the paddock.

By then the clouds had broken, and blue sky was peeking out. And when Diversify hit the wire in front by 3 1/2 lengths, having had his way the entire nine furlongs, there were seven horses, and a rainbow, following him down the stretch at Saratoga Race Course.

Breaking perfectly from post 6, Diversify and Irad Ortiz Jr. got the jump on the field and made their way to the front, getting over to the rail before they hit the first turn. His lead never less than two lengths, he raced through legitimate fractions of :23.22 and :46.50, completely unchallenged.

The tote board said that this would be a race between two Grade 1-winning New York-breds, and that’s what it was, though a less-close one than the connections of Mind Your Biscuits would have liked. The richest New York-bred in history was beat a nose in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) last out, and before that won the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) for the second straight year.

Mine Your Biscuits made a determined run, making his move heading into the first turn and doing his best under Joel Rosario to run down Diversify. Today, though, he was second best, holding on to complete the chalky New York-bred exacta ($20.60). Discreet Lover was third by a half-length, and last year’s Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tapwrit finished fourth, 6 1/4 lengths farther back.

“The wait was tough,” trainer Rick Violette said. “I felt for the horses, because you just don’t know how they’re going to react to that.”

It apparently affected Diversify not at all, who arguably won the race in the first quarter-mile.

“When he broke like a shot that was half the battle,” Violette said, “and then (jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) really threw down the gauntlet at the half mile pole and said ‘Come and get me.’”

“He proved he could keep going,” Ortiz said. “He was steady; he wasn’t dying at the end. I wanted to be on the lead, and he did everything right for me. He was ready.”

Violette has trained the five-year-old Diversify for his entire 15-race career. The bay son of Bellamy Road was purchased as a yearling for $150,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton sale of preferred New York-breds by Maverick Racing. Two years later, Maverick entered him in the Keeneland November sale of breeding stock, and Violette encouraged long-time client Ralph Evans to purchase the sophomore, which he did with his daughter Lauren for $210,000.

Diversify has now earned just shy of $2 million while posting a 15-10-2-0 scorecard.

Out of the Street Cry mare Rule One, Diversify was bred in New York by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding. He is the first horse that Lauren and Ralph Evans have owned together.

“I couldn’t be at the Gold Cup,” Lauren said in Saturday’s winner’s circle, referring to the gelding’s first Grade 1 win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last fall. “I’m thrilled and I’m speechless.”

And while Violette felt confident at the eighth-pole, it took Lauren a little longer to realize that her horse was going to win.

“Right,” she said, “when he crossed the finish line.”

“This belongs to Rick and (assistant trainer) Melissa and his crew,” said her choked-up father. “This is in honor of all the people here and gone who indulged my passion for racing.”