Yet another important 2018 race was contested on a wet track.
Accelerate won the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap by 5 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track last March 10.
Justify splish-splashed his way to a 2 1/2-length triumph on a sloppy surface in the Grade I Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs last May 5. Two weeks later, the grand-looking chestnut colt registered a half-length win in Pimlico’s Grade I Preakness Stakes, which also was run on a sloppy strip. He then competed on dry land on June 9 in the Grade I Belmont Stakes when victorious by 1 3/4 lengths to become this country’s 13th Triple Crown winner.
The Grade I Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the eighth race on last Saturday’s card at Saratoga, was run on a fast main track. As a result of a summertime downpour, the historic oval underwent a metamorphosis from fast to sloppy between the eighth and ninth races.
The ninth race was the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes, which was delayed due to the storm. The Whitney runners were kept in the paddock for an extended period of time during the heavy rain and lightning. Finally, the Grade I race got underway some 41 minutes later than scheduled.
Sent away as the 8-5 favorite, Diversify darted to the front at once and proceeded to lead past every pole. He boasted a 3 1/2-length advantage with a furlong to go. Mind Your Biscuits, the 3-1 second choice, was closest to Diversify at the eighth pole. It appeared that Mind Your Biscuits might make a run at Diversify in the final furlong. But Mind Your Biscuits, nor anyone else, could catch Diversify, who won by the same 3 1/2-length margin he had been leading by at the eighth pole.
Mind Your Biscuits came in second to complete a New York-bred exacta. It was the first time Mind Your Biscuits had raced farther than one mile in his 23-race career.
Discreet Lover ended up third in the Whitney, a half-length behind Mind Your Biscuits. Tapwrit finished fourth in the field of eight, followed in order by Good Samaritan, McCraken, Backyard Heaven and Dalmore.
It was an especially disappointing performance by Backyard Heaven, who lost by 28 1/2 lengths at 7-2. This was his second straight clunker. Backyard Heaven lost Churchill Downs’ Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap by 10 1/4 lengths when he ran sixth on June 16 as the 4-5 favorite following a 4 1/2-length win in Churchill’s Grade II Alysheba Stakes on May 4.
Trained by Rick Violette and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Diversify posted a final time of 1:49.62 in his Whitney victory. The Bellamy Road gelding now has won 10 of 15 lifetime starts.
Violette reported Sunday morning that Diversify was “tired” but a “happy camper” following his latest win. The trainer also said Belmont’s Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 29 is next for Diversify, who won the 1 1/4-mile event in 2017 by one length.
It would be prudent, Violette said, for Diversify to skip Saratoga’s Grade I Woodward Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 1. The trainer said he probably won’t even nominate Diversify to the Woodward.
After Diversify runs in the 2018 Gold Cup, Violette added, a decision then will be made whether or not to run him in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. A concern articulated by both Violette and co-owner Ralph Evans vis-a-vis the BC Classic is that Diversify’s lone start on the main track at Churchill Downs was a defeat. Diversify finished fourth as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill last Nov. 24.
Diversify received a 110 Beyer for his Whitney victory, tying his career-best figure. He recently likewise recorded a 110 for his 6 1/2-length score in Belmont Park’s Grade II Suburban Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on July 7. He also accomplished his Suburban win in wire-to-wire fashion.
Here are the Beyer Speed Figures recorded by Whitney winners going back to 1990:
2018 Diversify (110)
2017 Gun Runner (112)
2016 Frosted (107)
2015 Honor Code (113)
2014 Moreno (109)
2013 Cross Traffic (108)
2012 Fort Larned (110)
2011 Tizway (111)
2010 Blame (111)
2009 Bullsbay (107)
2008 Commentator (120)
2007 Lawyer Ron (117)
2006 Invasor (113)
2005 Commentator (123)
2004 Roses in May (114)
2003 Medaglia d’Oro (114)
2002 Left Bank (121)
2001 Lido Palace (114)
2000 Lemon Drop Kid (118)
1999 Victory Gallop (116)
1998 Awesome Again (110)
1997 Will’s Way (126)
1996 Mahogany Hall (110)
1995 Unaccounted For (111)
1994 Colonial Affair (111)
1993 Brunswick (115)
1992 Sultry Song (112)
1991 In Excess (116)
1990 Criminal Type (115)
AVELLO SLASHES DIVERSIFY’S BC ODDS
Shortly after the Whitney, John Avello significantly lowered Diversify’s odds to win the 2018 BC Classic from 22-1 to 10-1 at the Wynn Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas.
Avello also cut the BC Classic price on Mind Your Biscuits from 75-1 to 50-1 after the Whitney. After 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit ran fourth in the Whitney, his BC Classic odds were raised to 25-1 from 18-1.
Good Magic, who won Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational by three lengths at 1 1/8 miles on July 29, remains the 4-1 BC Classic favorite at the Wynn. The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Curlin colt is headed to Saratoga’s Grade I, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 25.
West Coast, winner of the Grade I Travers in 2017, currently is in training at Los Alamitos. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Flatter colt, owned by Gary and Mary West, has not started since he finished second to Thunder Snow in the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup last March 31.
In an Aug. 3 BloodHorse story, Gary West told Bob Ehalt that West Coast is expected to begin workouts “in a week or two.” The owner said he hopes the colt will be ready for the BC Classic, but if not, then the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23 would be the next option.
“He’s been back in training for three weeks now at Los Alamitos for Bob,” West said. “He’s training great. We just don’t know when he’ll be ready to run again. There’s no specific race we have in mind for him right now. We’d love to make the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But if the horse isn’t 100% ready, then we’ll go to a ‘Plan B,’ which would be the Clark, and if Gulfstream has the Pegasus [early next year] and it’s a fair financial deal, we’ll run in that and then retire him.”
West also said he did not believe there would be time for a prep race before the Breeders’ Cup, but he added that he has complete confidence in Baffert’s ability to run West Coast in the Classic off workouts alone.
“Bob is an absolutely magician in getting a horse to a race off works,” West said. “He does it better than anyone else I have seen in my life.”
While West Coast’s layoff would be much longer, Baffert did win the 2015 and 2016 BC Classics with 3-year-olds who had not run in a couple of months.
Baffert won the 2015 BC Classic with American Pharoah at Keeneland on Oct. 31. It was the Triple Crown winner’s first start since he had finished second to Keen Ice in the Travers on Aug. 29. Baffert then won the 2016 BC Classic with Arrogate at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. It was Arrogate’s first start since he had won the Travers on Aug. 27.
These are the horses listed at 30-1 or lower as of Aug. 4 for the BC Classic at the Wynn:
4-1 Good Magic
6-1 West Coast
9-1 Thunder Snow
30-1 Dr. Dorr
30-1 Honorable Duty
30-1 King Zachary
30-1 Vino Rosso
LONGACRES MILE SELECTIONS
The Grade III, $200,000 Longacres Mile, which is the richest race in the Pacific Northwest, will be run for 83rd time this Sunday. To racing fans in that part of the country, it is known simply as The Mile.
I would have loved Riser to win The Mile this year. He has finished first in all three of his starts at Emerald Downs this year by 2 1/4 lengths or more, though he was disqualified in one of them. But Riser is not running in The Mile due to an injury.
“Trainer Blaine Wright did not say what the injury was, but that ‘it is serious enough that we will miss the races we had targeted for him,’ ” Daily Racing Form’s Randy Goulding reported.
Wright nevertheless will be represented in The Mile by Alert Bay, who returns to the racing wars against five foes this Sunday following a long layoff. The California-bred son of City Zip boasts career earnings of $1,252,555.
Alert Bay has been installed as the 9-5 favorite by Emerald Downs oddsmaker Rob Rao on the Longacres Mile morning line. It will be the 7-year-old gelding’s first start since he finished third in Santa Anita’s Grade III American Stakes on the grass on July 4, 2017. He has recorded a number of bullet workouts on Golden Gate’s synthetic main track leading up to Sunday’s race.
Here are my Longacres Mile selections:
1. Conquest Windycity
2. Alert Bay
Conquest Windycity is 9-2 on the Longacres Mile morning line. When the 5-year-old gelding won a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming race earlier this year at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9, he was good enough to beat Mind Your Biscuits by a head. Yes, that’s the same Mind Your Biscuits who ran second in last Saturday’s Grade I Whitney and is ranked No. 6 nationally this week on the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll.
It’s true that Conquest Windycity has not finished better than fifth in four starts since his Feb. 9 win. But he has been facing such toughies as Limousine Liberal, Warrior’s Club and Awesome Slew. Conquest Windycity should find his Longacres Mile foes much more to his liking.
Michael Maker trains Conquest Windycity. The Kentucky-bred son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow seems to have been working up a storm at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center. Erick Lopez will ride Conquest Windycity this Sunday.
Barkley and Mach One Rules certainly are contenders Sunday. Barkley is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, with Mach One Rules pegged at 4-1.
A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Munnings, Barkley is a multiple stakes winner at Emerald. Most recently, he finished second to Riser in the Mt. Rainier Stakes on July 15. Riser ran fourth behind Gold Rush Dancer, Mach One Rules and Dedicated to You in the 2017 Longacres Mile.
Mach One Rules, like Barkley, is a multiple stakes winner at Emerald. A 5-year-old Washington-bred Harbor the Gold gelding, Mach One Rules finished third in the recent Mt. Rainer, 7 1/4 lengths behind Barkley.
THIS WEEK’S NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL
Whitney winner Divesify rocketed up to No. 3 this week after being No. 11 last week. Here is this week’s poll:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 380 Justify (38)
2. 340 Accelerate (1)
3. 301 Diversify (3)
4. 290 Monomoy Girl
5. 144 Unique Bella (1)
6. 141 Mind Your Biscuits
7. 141 Good Magic
8. 103 Bee Jersey
9. 99 West Coast (1)
10. 76 Abel Tasman