James Barry purchased his 4-year-old Divine Park for just $20,000 at Keeneland’s September yearling sale in 2005. Less than three years later, the son of Chester House became a grade I winner when he ran down the talented Commentator in the $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO
) at Belmont Park.
Commentator brought his “A” game to the May 26 Met Mile for owner Tracy Farmer and trainer Nick Zito, but the front-running 7-year-old was pushed through a rapid pace that left him flat at the sixteenth pole and set up perfectly for Divine Park’s late charge through the lane.
“We worried about the pace,” said Divine Park's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, “(but Divine Park is) an outstanding horse. From day one, we never lost confidence in him. The five pounds (from Commentator) helped us out a lot.”
Carrying 122 versus Divine Park’s assigned weight of 117, Commentator took the lead in the one-mile Metropolitan with constant pressure from the Bobby Frankel-trained First Defence, who first raced inside under Javier Castellano to force the Zito trainee to carry his lead three wide. First Defence then swung outside to press speedy opening fractions of :22.48 and :44.52. Divine Park was sixth at the half and began his move at the quarter pole under Alan Garcia.
“It set up very good for me,” said Garcia, who got the second grade I victory of his career. “My horse was so comfortable and relaxed. I started asking him at the quarter pole. He gave me everything I wanted.”
After three-quarters in 1:09.61, Commentator was still turning back a stiff bid from First Defence. Once Garcia got Divine Park straightened out from a four-wide run on the turn, however, there was no stopping his determined advance. The colt caught Commentator on the outside and went by to win by two lengths in a final time of 1:36.91.
“It was a great race; we just got a bad break,” Zito said. “(Castellano) put a lot of pressure on us, first inside to make us three wide, and then outside. It took (Commentator) out of his race, and carrying top weight didn’t help, but I’m not complaining. He’s a great horse and I’m very proud.”
Commentator earned only positive remarks from Velazquez, who said his effort in the Met Mile was more than enough to earn a trip to Zito’s next tentative goal – the $750,000 Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga July 26.
“He tried so hard, it was unbelievable, but (the race) set up for someone else,” the jockey said. “He put out everything I asked him to give. The way the race set up, that’s what I was afraid of. He kept running, and by the sixteenth pole, he flattened out.”
Divine Park returned $6.50, $3.40, and $2.70 while Commentator paid $3.10 and $2.60 as the 6-5 favorite and Lord Snowden closed for third to pay $5.90. Council Member, First Defence, Z Humor, Kiss the Kid, Premium Wine, and Global Hunter completed the order of finish.
Divine Park was bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay out of the Ascot Knight mare High in the Park. The Met Mile win was his third consecutive score in recent months; he took Belmont’s April 30 Westchester Handicap (gr. III) after wiring the field in a March 28 allowance event at Aqueduct. Divine Park also racked up a three-race win streak at the beginning of his career when he won a maiden special weight, an allowance event, and the Withers Stakes (gr. III). From eight starts, his earnings total $607,935.