Diversify Heading To Old Friends; Blowen Hoping To Honor Rick Violette Jr. With New Facility

Ralph and Lauren Evans’ recently retired two-time Grade 1 winning New York-bred Diversify is on his way to Old Friends Equine, a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited facility in Kentucky.

Originally trained by the late Rick Violette, Jr., who died in October 2018, Diversify was transferred to the care of Jonathan Thomas to prepare for his 2019 campaign. After incurring a suspensory injury earlier this month, the decision was made to retire the $1.9 million earner.

Old Friends was created in 2003 by Michael Blowen, a former movie critic for the Boston Globe and lifelong racing fan, who oversees the farm in Georgetown, Ky., where fans are welcome to interact and visit with retired stars of racing.

“Michael Blowen and Mr. Evans got together and the decision was made for him to go to Old Friends and live out his life in the spotlight,” said Thomas. “It’s a tremendous facility and Mr. Blowen has done incredible things with allowing fans to have access to these star horses. I think it’s also really good for the horses. Diversify is a horse that loves attention and being acknowledged. This is the beginning of a new story for him.”

Old Friends also has a facility in Cabin Creek, in Greenfield Center in upstate New York, which is home to a number of retired New York stars including 1996 Travers winner Will’s Way.

Blowen said he is hoping to launch a second New York facility soon within ten minutes of downtown Saratoga Springs, which could be headlined by Diversify who was a wire-to-wire winner of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney Handicap last year at Saratoga Race Course.

“If we can get the money together, I would like to name the location after Rick Violette the way we named the farm in Greenfield Center at Cabin Creek after Bobby Frankel. Rick and I used to talk about aftercare all the time and he was an avid supporter of looking after horses when they were done racing. It would be an honor to name the new place after him,” said Blowen. “We already have King Kreesa, Lubash and Kharafa and of course Commentator. We have all these great New York-breds and it will be so great to show them off.”

Diversify, voted the 2018 New York-bred Horse of the Year, will leave for Kentucky on Thursday afternoon.

“If I can’t get a horse to the racetrack healthy and sound, my ultimate job is to make sure that the horse retires sound and can go live out his life the right way,” said Thomas. “This game is cool for a lot of reasons but the fact that someone is doing this kind of thing with these horses is awesome. In what other sport can you go and shake hands with the stars?”

For more information on Old Friends, visit https://www.oldfriendsequine.org.

Thomas has a busy two weeks ahead with stable star Catholic Boy pointed to the Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban on July 6 as part of the Stars & Stripes Racing Festival, and newcomer Rock My Love making her North American debut in the Grade 2, $175,000 Dance Smartly, at Woodbine Racetrack.

Catholic Boy, a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt, breezed five furlongs on the Belmont main track on Sunday in a rapid 58.28 seconds.

The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready, who won the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on dirt and the Grade 1 Belmont Derby on turf last year, made his 2019 debut in the Grade 2 Dixie on May 18 at Pimlico, winning by a half-length.

“That was one of those moves I have not seen him do that before. I’ve not had a horse under my immediate care as a trainer do what he did with the swiftness of the breeze, but also in the way that he did it,” said Thomas. “My first instinct is that it was way too fast, but when I went back and watched the video and most importantly when I saw him back in the barn and how quickly he recovered I realized that he just got into a big rhythm and breezed well.

“After a few days to digest it, it just looked like a good horse that breezed really well,” added Thomas. “It looks like he got over the main track at Belmont really well. It will be his first time running over it.”

A former assistant to Todd Pletcher, Thomas said he recognized the work as the quality of a superior racehorse.

“There are many things to take away from working for Todd, but one of them is when you see those good horses doing well they tend to breeze really well. Hopefully, that’s what we’re dealing with here, said Thomas.

Rock My Love, a German-bred daughter of Holy Roman Emperor, captured the Group 3 Preis der Winterkonigin in October 2017 to cap off an undefeated juvenile campaign for then conditioner Markus Klug.

Transferred to the care of Frederic Head for her sophomore season, Rock My Love was winless in four stars, missing by just three-quarters of a length in the Group 2 Shadwell Prix de la Nonette in August.

Campaigned by the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge, Rock My Love has trained steadily into her 4-year-old debut for Thomas.

“We were fortunate that Mr. Strawbridge asked us to take her. She’s a filly with a beautiful body of work underneath her in Europe,” said Thomas. “We’ve had her for about five months and she’s acclimated well and seems to be a filly of quality.”

She will make her debut in the Dance Smartly, a 1 ¼-mile test on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course on Queen’s Plate Day Saturday at Woodbine.

“It’s a little tricky trying to spot her as I’m thinking the mile races are going to be a bit quick for her this time of year on very firm ground and I’m not certain she’s a real marathon filly either, so the mile and a quarter up at Woodbine should suit her,” said Thomas.

Flavien Prat will pilot Rock My Love from the outside post in a field of eight. Given her good form on softer ground, Thomas said he would welcome a little rain at the Etobicoke, Ontario oval.

“We’re looking for a nice, quiet comeback. We’re not expecting to go up there and grab the brass ring so to speak, but we’re hoping for a good showing,” said Thomas. “Not to put a damper on a big day like that, but if it happened to rain it wouldn’t bother us in the least.”

The post Diversify Heading To Old Friends; Blowen Hoping To Honor Rick Violette Jr. With New Facility appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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