Diversify Overcomes Obstacles in Whitney Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 6th, 2018

A sloppy, sealed track. A 45-minute weather-related delay. A fast pace. A quality field.

You certainly can’t claim that Diversify had things easy in Saturday’s $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Quite to the contrary, the Richard Violette, Jr.-trained runner faced challenges and obstacles at seemingly every turn, both before and during the running of the prestigious nine-furlong race. Yet Diversify shrugged them off with remarkable ease, earning a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) while reiterating that he is a major contender for the prestigious championship at Churchill Downs.

It was while the horses were being prepared to race that Diversify faced his first obstacle. Post time was originally scheduled for 5:46 p.m. Eastern, but with a thunderstorm in the area, the race was delayed while rain poured down and lightning flashed in the distance. In the end, the Whitney was delayed until 6:30 p.m., with the horses simply walking around the paddock area—waiting, waiting, waiting—for the majority of that time.

Of course, the rain had an unfortunate effect on the track condition, reducing it from fast to sloppy and sealed. And when the gates opened, Diversify rocketed out as if shot by a cannon, seemingly committed to setting the pace at any cost.

And for his fellow pace rivals, the cost was high. Backyard Heaven and Dalmore, both graded stakes winners, attempted to stay with Diversify early on through fractions of :23.22 and :46.50. Their chase was in vain; ultimately, they faded to finish next-to-last and last. Tapwrit, a Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner known for his stamina, also tried to stay within striking distance of Diversify, but couldn’t keep pace and wound up finishing more than ten lengths back in fourth place.

But did jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. attempt to slow down Diversify as the pace-pressers began to fade? Certainly not—instead, Ortiz pressed on, allowing Diversify to seize the initiative and cruise to a 3 ½-length lead through six furlongs in a quick 1:10.70.
In the end, the only remote challenge came from Mind Your Biscuits, a multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter trying two turns for the first time. After biding his time in fifth place, Mind Your Biscuits unleashed a sharp rally around the far turn to briefly reach contention, but Diversify had plenty left in the tank, maintaining his advantage under encouragement from Ortiz to cruise home 3 ½ lengths in front, stopping the clock in 1:49.62 seconds.

With the retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify and the delayed return of last year’s champion three-year-old male West Coast, the landscape of contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is decidedly unsettled. With his win in the Whitney and his impressive romp in the Suburban Stakes (gr. II) two starts back, Diversify has clearly thrown his hat in the ring as a horse to watch out for this fall.