SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Lauren Evans and Ralph M. Evans' New York-bred Diversify proved to be uncatchable as the afternoon rain subsided easily registering a 3 ½-length victory over Mind Your Biscuits in the 91st running of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney over a sloppy and sealed track on Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course.
Diversify, ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. and trained by Rick Violette, Jr., broke well and took up his customary position at the head of the eight-horse field in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. With some early pressure from California import Dalmore, the 5-year-old Bellamy Road gelding carried his speed through a swift opening quarter-mile in 23.22 seconds.
Diversify began to separate himself from the field up the backstretch, opening up a three- or four-length lead over Dalmore, with Tapwrit and Backyard Heaven in close pursuit as the half went in 46.50 and three-quarters in 1:10.70.
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Reigning New York-bred Horse of the Year Mind Your Biscuits, exiting a close second in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and stretching out to two turns for the first time, began to pick off rivals in the far turn as Diversify turned for home. Mind Your Biscuits, a 5-year-old chestnut by Posse, used his late-charging style to move into second on the outside and appeared poised to challenge the lead at the top the lane, but Diversify found another gear and powered down the stretch to complete the route in 1:49.62.
Mind Your Biscuits finished second, a half-length ahead of Discreet Lover, who rallied in the stretch to hit the board at odds of 38-1. Tapwrit was fourth, followed by Good Samaritan, McCraken, Backyard Heaven, and Dalmore to complete the order of finish.
"I wanted to be on the lead. He did everything right for me. He was ready," said Ortiz.
"I knew somebody was going to be coming, no matter what," he added. "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."
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Diversify returned $5.20 for a $2 win wager.
The victory was the third straight for Diversify, following a nose win against state-breds in the Commentator and a 6 ½-length score in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7, both at Belmont Park. Following the Suburban, Violette originally pointed Diversify to the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on Sept. 2 at Saratoga, but rerouted the gelding to the Whitney following a sharp breeze over the weekend.
"He did too well not to run here," Violette said of the decision. "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.'"
Overall, Diversify owns 10 wins and two seconds from 15 starts for career earnings of $1,959,425. Last year, the characteristic frontrunner won four of eight races, including an 11 ½-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Evan Shipman against New York-breds, his only previous start at Saratoga and the second of three straight wins in the summer and fall. He capped that win streak with a gutsy one-length victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, a title Diversify will likely try to defend on Sept. 29 at Belmont.
"I will talk to the owners and enjoy this race but the Jockey Gold Cup will certainly be part of the plan," said Violette.
Chad Summers, trainer of Mind Your Biscuits, said the current plan is to continue to prepare the multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter to stretch out in the 1 ¼-mile Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 3, a potential Round 2 of a New York-bred rivalry.
Mind Your Biscuits, the richest New York-bred in history with $4,159,286 in lifetime earnings, has finished in the top three in 20 of 23 starts with seven wins, including thrilling back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai.
"Diversify has good cruising speed, and once he goes that 46 and change, and he's in front by three or four he's a tough horse to run down," said Summers. "He's a good New York-bred, but we look forward to seeing him down the road. He struggled at Churchill. We think we're going to love Churchill.
"At this point we'll see how he comes out of it. I thought he galloped out of it really good. We'll talk to Joel and the connections, but I see no reason not to go on, to kind of move on," he added. "Obviously, you have to get one more win and you're in, to qualify and get in, but I think he showed up with another big effort here today, so I see no reason not to move forward."
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