A year ago, Diversify used his one-sided triumph in the $100,000 Evan Shipman Stakes at Saratoga as a stepping-stone to his victory in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup seven weeks later at Belmont Park.
Whether there is a future Grade 1 winner in the field for Monday’s Evan Shipman remains to be seen, although the cast for the 1 1/8-mile race is a good one and includes likely favorite Pat On the Back, who ran the now two-time Grade 1 winner Diversify to a nose decision in the Commentator this past spring.
A field of eight New York-breds was drawn for the Evan Shipman, although three of them – Papa Shot, Hit It Once More, and Winston’s Chance – also are entered the same day in the Genesee Valley Breeders’ Stakes at Finger Lakes.
Trainer Jeremiah Englehart said that considering his current form, Pat On the Back could be a prime candidate for more prestigious races later this season. The 4-year-old son of Congrats joined Englehart’s barn from the Ken McPeek stable this year following a second-place finish in the six-furlong Affirmed Success Stakes at Belmont and right before turning in the best performance of his career, when he was outgamed by Diversify in the one-mile Commentator.
Pat On the Back subsequently proved that effort was no fluke by overcoming a stumble at the start to win the 1 1/16-mile Saginaw by 1 3/4 lengths here on July 13.
“He shipped into our barn from Kenny a week or so before the Commentator in good shape, ran great, and we’ve just been trying to maintain that good form ever since,” said Englehart. “He’s been battling a little bit of a foot issue since the [Saginaw], but my blacksmith and assistant at Belmont have done a really nice job with his training program preparing him for Monday.”
The ability to stay 1 1/8 miles could also be key to Pat On the Back’s success in the Evan Shipman.
“His M.O. has been that he’s not as good around two turns as one,” said Englehart. “But I’m hoping this race will be a different story since he’s a little better horse right now than the last time he tried it. Every time I watch Diversify run, I begin to wonder if I’m not testing this horse enough. So, if all goes well, my main goal is to give him a shot in the Kelso when we get back to Belmont.”
The Evan Shipman has a familiar look to it as it reunites the first four finishers from the Saginaw.
Trainer George Weaver will take the blinkers off Wine Not, who earned a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure for his second-place effort behind Pat On the Back in the Saginaw.
Hit It Once More was able to control the pace before fading to third while returning to statebred competition in the Saginaw, but figures to have his hands full with Control Group during the early stages on Monday.
Twisted Tom finished a tiring fourth, beaten more than 10 lengths, as the 3-5 favorite while making his 2018 debut in the Saginaw. Twisted Tom won three consecutive statebred stakes to cap a 3-year-old campaign last year during which he captured six of seven starts, with his lone setback coming in the Belmont Stakes.
Control Group has won five of his last seven starts, all for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, but proved no match for Diversify and Pat On the Back when finishing far back in the Commentator.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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