Strike while the iron’s hot. That’s more or less trainer Rick Violette’s thinking when it came to entering Diversify in Saturday’s $1.2 million Whitney (G1) at Saratoga, a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race for the Classic (G1).
A dominating winner of the Suburban (G2) last month by 6 1/2 lengths, Violette was initially inclined to bypass the 1 1/8-mile Whitney with Diversify and wait for the Woodward (G1) on Labor Day weekend. How the New York-bred has done since the Suburban convinced Violette to change plans.
“I was very concerned after the Suburban. He had run such a huge race that I thought that four weeks might be too quick,” Violette said. “But he kept making a liar out of me. He ate well, trained well and breezed awfully well on Sunday. His blood has a habit of spiking up and down, so we had to make sure that duck was in a row. We got back those results today. Sometimes, when your horse is doing good, you’re supposed to run.”
Diversify first gained national attention taking the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last fall. Disappointing runs in the Clark H. (G1) and Charles Town Classic (G2), followed, but the five-year-old gelding has now won two straight.
“We have a few options,” Violette said. “He can be tactical and if someone wants to get silly out there, we can certainly follow that lead. We’ll be aggressive; the break is always important, [whether] it’s a mile and a half or five eighths, it’s critical there. He has the ability and has a very high cruising speed and [can] keep going. A lot of times, we just throw the gauntlet down.”
While Diversify is the 7-5 morning line choice, Mind Your Biscuits is next at 2-1. The two-time Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner has yet to race beyond a mile, narrowly losing the Metropolitan H. (G1) last time and also claiming runner-up honors last fall in the Cigar Mile (G1).
“I’m as confident as I can be,” trainer Chad Summers said. “It hasn’t been done before, but everything he’s always shown me over his entire career is that he can do it, and until he can’t, I’m not going to think he can’t.”
Backyard Heaven, who impressively pulled away from 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming in the Alysheba (G2) in May, looks to rebound from a disappointing sixth-place effort in the Stephen Foster H. (G1), contested on a hot, humid evening at Churchill Downs June 16. The Chad Brown trainee remains with upside as he’s raced only five times.
“He’s only run the one bad race for us at Churchill. Maybe it was the heat,” Brown said. “We’ll draw a line through it because the horse has been training well since and hopefully he bounces back and regains the form he has.”
Good Samaritan landed last year’s Jim Dandy (G2) over the same track and distance, beating Always Dreaming, Preakness (G1) winner Cloud Computing and Pavel. After a season-opening score in the New Orleans H. (G2), Good Samaritan finish third in the Alysheba and seventh in the Met Mile.
Tapwrit, the 2017 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner, was a non-threatening fifth in the Suburban as the favorite and has not placed in two prior starts at Saratoga. The rest also need to improve dramatically. Grade 3 winner Discreet Lover crashed the Suburban trifecta at 41-1, while Dalmore and McCraken recently finished second and third, respectively, in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3).