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With the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” schedule complete for 2017, the time has come to begin sorting the contenders from the pretenders for this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Many of the series winners from the last few weekends will move on to the Breeders’ Cup as one of the favorites for their respective races.
In this week’s Getting to Know feature, we focus on Diversify, winner of the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes on Oct. 7 at Belmont Park and a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Diversify doesn’t fit the typical profile of a Breeders’ Cup Classic contender, especially this year. Many of the contenders for the $6 million race were pegged as elite runners early and made their graded stakes debuts in their 2-year-old season: Gun Runner, Collected, Gunnevera, Keen Ice, and European hopeful War Decree. Others like Arrogate, Win the Space, and West Coast got a later start to their careers but made a quick impact in major races.
Diversify did flash talent from the moment he first stepped into the starting gate, but his route to the top was less conventional.
After he was purchased for $150,000 from the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-Bred preferred yearling sale, Diversify did not race until July of his 3-year-old season. He started out in a maiden race at Belmont Park restricted to New York-breds and rolled to a 4 ½-length win at 3.30-1 odds for trainer Rick Violette and owner WinStar Farm. He then won a New York-bred allowance race at Belmont by 5 ½ lengths at 2.75-1 odds in September 2016.
With two wins in as many starts, Diversify was entered in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale as a racing prospect. The Bellamy Road gelding went through the auction ring in the eighth session. Violette was familiar with Diversify, believed he had room to improve, and wanted to keep him in his barn, so he purchased the horse for $210,000 for longtime clients Ralph and Lauren Evans.
Diversify made his first start for his new owners 29 days later at Aqueduct and won another allowance race for New York-breds by 12 ¾ lengths, leading from start to finish as he had in his two previous starts and earning a then-career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure, 20 points better than his previous race. He returned a month later for his 4-year-old debut and won again at Aqueduct by three-quarters of a lengths in an allowance race that marked his first time racing outside of competition limited to New York-breds. From there, it was time for his stakes debut.
Diversify weakened late in the Stymie Stakes in March 2017, fading to seventh after setting the pace. He then ran second in an allowance race to highly regarded Rally Cry and second in the Commentator Stakes, finishing a nose behind Weekend Hideaway in the latter.
Diversify subsequently began to find his best stride and won the Saginaw Stakes by 2 ¾ lengths at Belmont Park against New York-breds. He then recorded a new career-best 118 Equibase Speed Figure when winning the Evan Shipman Stakes, also against New York-breds, at Saratoga Race Course on Aug 21.
Diversify made his graded stakes debut in his 10th start, having amassed six wins and two seconds in his previous nine races for Violette. The challenge would be daunting as he was entered in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, a race of historical significance won by all-time greats such as Man o’ War, Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation, Nashua, Kelso, Buckpasser, Shuvee, Forego, Affirmed, John Henry, Easy Goer, Cigar, and Curlin, but Diversify exceeded expectations.
He took charge right out of the starting gate and opened a clear lead, coasting through a half-mile in :47.74 with a 2 ½-length advantage. He had plenty left for the stretch, and won comfortably by a length in his first try at 1 ¼ miles.
The 118 Equibase Speed Figure Diversify earned for the Jockey Club Gold Cup paired the figure from his previous race and offers hope he can take a step forward if he goes on to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4. He’s reportedly come out of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in good order, is training well, and will be pre-entered in the Classic, but Violette is on the fence because there could be several horses to challenge Diversify for the lead.
Top contenders Gun Runner, Collected, and West Coast all boast terrific natural speed and could make life difficult for the Classic pacesetter.
Given that Diversify already has a win at 1 ¼ miles on a testing Belmont Park main track called “Big Sandy,” it might seem like a foregone conclusion that he’ll be able to excel at that distance at Del Mar. But the pace scenario could change things significantly if the Bellamy Road gelding feels pressure right from the start and never has a chance to get into a comfortable rhythm.
Diversify is from the sixth crop of Bellamy Road, the front-running 17 ½-length winner of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes in 2005. Bellamy Road, by Concerto, has sired 34 stakes winners, including 12 group or graded stakes winners, from 312 winners through Oct. 23. In addition to Diversify, his top runners include 2011 Wood Memorial Stakes winner Toby’s Corner, his leading earner with $928,240; Grade 1 winner Constellation; and graded stakes winner Land Over Sea.
Diversify is out of the Street Cry mare Rule One, who was winless in six races ranging in distance from seven-eighths of a mile to 1 1/16 miles, with her best race a runner-up finish at 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Woodbine in 2009. Rule One is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to graded stakes winner Lady Digby.
Diversify’s grandam (maternal grandmother), Compete, won one of four starts, a one-mile race on the grass.
I definitely see some of Bellamy Road in Diversify: that dangerous front-end speed and the ability to carry it a long way. That said, Diversify’s pedigree on the whole is a little light on class and doesn’t shout Grade 1 winner. Diversify definitely is an unconventional budding star in many ways.