Diversify is the only Grade 1 winner among a field of seven in Saturday’s $1.2 million Charles Town Classic (G2), but among those he’ll have to fend off is War Story, who looks to give jockey Javier Castellano a third consecutive win in the Classic and fourth overall.
A multiple stakes winner in the New York-bred ranks when he entered the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last October, the speedy Diversify wound up leading the entire mile and a quarter, winning by one length over Keen Ice. Although fourth as the favorite in his season finale in the Clark H. (G1), trainer Rick Violette is confident the son of Bellamy Road will fire in his return from a five-month spell.
“He’s doing super,” Violette said. “He’s shown that he’s run well fresh, and we’re looking forward to getting his five-year-old campaign kicked off in a big way.”
Diversify could see early pressure from the likes of Afleet Willy and You’re to Blame, which wouldn’t bother Violette.
“He’s stalked and won before, and that was by design, so if someone wants to go crazy on the front end, they’re more than welcome,” he said.
“Last time in the Clark, he broke a beat slow and Irad [Ortiz Jr.] had to get after him a little bit early and that really had him keyed up. But the other thing is that he didn’t really like the track that night. Irad said he never really got a hold of it, so I thought all things considered he still ran pretty big that night. But I think it will be a rider’s race.”
War Story was beaten just a half-length in last year’s Classic, and experience over the six-furlong bullring served well previous winners such as Imperative, whom Castellano rode last year. After taking last summer’s Brooklyn (G2) over 1 1/2 miles, War Story chased Horse of the Year Gun Runner in four consecutive races, but bounced back last time with an authoritative win in the $100,000 Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs.
The field is rounded out by multiple Grade 3 winner Fear the Cowboy, a distant third in the Santa Anita H. (G1) last time; Something Awesome, a dual stakes winner at Laurel over the winter including the General George (G3) at seven furlongs; and Discreet Lover, upset winner of the Excelsior (G3) at Aqueduct two weeks ago.