Diversify seeks second grade one in Clark Handicap

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Alastair Bull

November 23rd, 2017

Held back from the Breeders’ Cup Classic despite winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park, Diversify gets his chance at a second grade one victory in the 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 24.

Diversify had won six of his nine starts, many in New York-bred races, when he tackled graded stakes company for the first time in the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. He proved more than up to the task, outrunning Keen Ice, Pavel, Good Samaritan, and Destin. If he’s just as adept at 1 1/8 miles he’ll be in with a big chance here.

Good Samaritan, winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) earlier in the year, and Destin, who subsequently won the 1 ¾-mile Marathon Stakes (G2) at the Breeders’ Cup meet, are back to face Diversify again.

Returning for a fourth attempt at the race is the Bob Baffert-trained Hoppertunity. He won the race in 2014, finished second to Effinex in 2015, and fourth behind Gun Runner last year. He’s only raced once since his Dubai World Cup sixth-place finish in March, finishing second in the Comma to the Top Stakes at Santa Anita Oct. 28.

Honorable Duty disappointed when finishing sixth and last in the Fayette Stakes (G2) at his most recent start, but it was possible the sloppy track was his undoing. He’d been in great form prior to that, winning two graded stakes races at Fair Grounds, the Lukas Classic Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs Sept. 30, and finishing second to Gun Runner in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. He will have a big chance if he returns to that form.

Fayette Stakes winner The Player deserves to be respected after his three-length victory in that race, which followed on from a second-place finish in the Ack Ack Stakes (G3). Two recent Keeneland allowance winners, Seeking the Soul and Goats Town, and last year’s Ohio Derby (G3) winner Mo Tom complete the field.

Diversify looks the horse to beat, though Hoppertunity should be right in it if he’s back to his best. Honorable Duty could well bounce back provided conditions aren’t wet, while The Player, Good Samaritan, and Destin must be respected. It’s an open race.