With a devastating last-to-first move, Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat surged past a strong field in the International Gold Cup’s $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) on Saturday and drew clear to a 6 1/2-length victory over Gustavian.
Irv Naylor’s Able Deputy, the 2014 Ferguson winner, finished third, a head behind Magalen O. Bryant’s Gustavian and a three-quarters of a length ahead of fourth-place finisher Arrakis.
Diplomat, making his first start for trainer Kate Dalton, ran the Ferguson’s 2 1/8 miles in 4:11 flat on a Great Meadow Race Course rated as good on a partly-sunny autumn afternoon in Virginia’s horse country.
The Ferguson was the first jumps victory for Flying Elvis, the partnership of brothers Adam and Richard Newman, who claimed Diplomat for $40,000 at Saratoga Race Course in early September.
Longtime flat owners, the Newmans had planned to make one of their flat horses into a hurdler, but Adam Newman spotted Diplomat in the Sept. 2 optional allowance at Saratoga and decided to take the plunge. He called his brother, who joined him in the deal.
Their flat trainer, Charlton Baker, put in the claim for Diplomat from trainer Jimmy Day’s Daybreak Stable, and in his only start for Baker finished seventh in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1).
The plan had been to transfer Diplomat to Kate Dalton all along, but late-September flooding in Camden, S.C., where the high-percentage trainer is based, delayed the transfer from Baker’s New York stable until early October.
Bernie Dalton, the trainer’s husband and a leading jockey, resumed his relationship with Diplomat after a one-race break. Dalton had ridden the Kitten’s Joy gelding to victories in the Carolina Cup for novices in March and the Saratoga win. “Bernie knows him so well,” Adam Newman said. “It was a little delicate because he was riding him before we got involved.”
Diplomat has excelled with one late move, and Dalton parked him at the back of the field as Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget went out to a sizable lead with Gustavian and Able Deputy–both returning after long absences–tracked his pace.
As Balance the Budget weakened, Diplomat grabbed the bit turning for home, and his late run carried him to dominant victory and raised his 2015 earnings to $125,000.
After the trophy presentation for Flying Elvis’ first steeplechase victory, Adam Newman had only one word to describe the experience. “Wow!” he said.