The complexion of one of the premier races of the Saratoga season, the tradition-rich Whitney Stakes, changed dramatically the morning of Tuesday’s post position draw when trainer Rick Violette made the last-minute decision to enter Diversify in the prestigious Grade 1 fixture. This turn of events set off a chain reaction that affected several key jockey assignments for the race.
Originally, Violette planned to bypass the Whitney to await the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 1 after Diversify turned in arguably the finest performance of his career in winning the Grade 2 Suburban by 6 1/2 lengths July 7. But a stellar work by Diversify on Sunday led Violette to reconsider his position.
“All the questions we had kept getting answered in the right way,” said Violette prior to the draw. “He breezed well, today his blood work came back good, he looks good, he’s actually gained a little weight since the last race, and he’s certainly acting like a horse that wants to run. You’re supposed to run them when they’re doing good. So, we’re ready to roll.”
One of Violette’s main concerns prior to entering Diversify on Tuesday was the jockey situation, since his regular rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., had already committed to key contender Backyard Heaven in the Whitney. The concern was short-lived. In the end, it will be Ortiz on Diversify with Javier Castellano, who originally was expected to ride longshot Dalmore, now named on Backyard Heaven. The red-hot Ricardo Santana Jr. ultimately picked up the mount on Dalmore for trainer Bob Hess Jr.
“The jockey situation just kind of resolved itself,” said Violette. “Some real sportsmen, some pretty classy people, were able to work with everybody and we were able to get it done.”
Diversify, who was established the 7-5 morning line favorite, drew post position 6, much to Violette’s satisfaction. His chief rival according to linemaker David Aragona, fellow New York-bred and 2-1 second choice Mind Your Biscuits, will break from post 4 under Joel Rosario.
The remainder of the field for the Whitney, from the rail out, is Tapwrit (John Velazquez); Backyard Heaven (Castellano); Dalmore (Santana); Discreet Lover (Manny Franco); Good Samaritan (Jose Ortiz); and McCraken (Brian Hernandez Jr.).
Diversify will share co-highweight of 124 pounds under the allowance conditions of the 1 1/8-mile Whitney along with Tapwrit, which means he must concede up to seven pounds to his competition including Mind Your Biscuits, whose ability to get nine furlongs is key to his chances on Saturday.
Mind Your Biscuits has never raced beyond a mile, but is coming off two of the best races of his career, a game victory over X Y Jet in the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen and a second-place finish, beaten a nose by Bee Jersey, on June 9 in the Metropolitan Handicap.
“I’m as confident as I can be that he’ll get the distance,” said trainer Chad Summers. “He’s always shown me signs that he can do it and until I see for sure he can’t, I’m going to believe he can. The fact this race is weighted under allowance conditions, knowing we’d be getting seven pounds from a horse like Diversify, is a big reason we’re running and we plan to take advantage of the weight we get here.”
The Whitney is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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