07/02/2017 7:23PM

Diversify makes Saginaw his first stakes victory

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Chelsea Durand
Diversify returned $3.70 in winning the Saginaw Stakes at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Though he fell a nose short in the $200,000 Commentator Stakes five weeks ago, Diversify at least showed for the first time he could be effective without having to be on the lead early in a race.

Diversify again sat off another horse early, but this time he seized the lead straightening away in the stretch and persevered to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Saginaw Stakes for New York breds at Belmont Park on Sunday.

Papa Shot rallied from farther off the pace to get second by a half-length over Gypsum Johnny as Linda Rice-trainees finished second and third. Fox Rules, the pace-setter, finished fourth and was followed by Hit It Once More and Samraat. Inside Straight, the co-second choice at 7-2, refused at the start and never left the starting gate. Governor Malibu scratched.

The win was the fifth from eight starts for Diversify, but first in a stakes race. He finished seventh of nine in the Stymie at Aqueduct in March and was beaten a nose by Weekend Hideaway in the Commentator Stakes on Memorial Day.

That day, he chased Weekend Hideaway from second and narrowly missed catching him. On Sunday, under Irad Ortiz Jr., Diversify flanked Fox Rules through a quarter in 23.12 seconds, a half-mile in 45.86 and six furlongs in 1:10.08 before taking a short lead approaching the quarter pole. Diversify was clearly in front above the eighth pole and was kept to his task by Ortiz to the wire.

“I tried to relax him and he was going comfortably,” Ortiz said. “Once he was in the clear, I let him do his thing. He kept going. He’s the type of horse where it doesn’t look like he’s running but he is.”

Diversify, a 4-year-old gelding by Bellamy Road owned by Ralph and Lauren Evans, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.76 and returned $3.70 as the 4-5 favorite.

“He let Irad grab a hold of him, then he was content to sit there,” Violette said. “Today, he left horses, which was good to see, though Irad said when he did leave them he was content to go into neutral. It’s nice to know you don’t have to be on the lead.”

Violette’s other starter in the race, Samraat, broke through the starting gate pre-race. He didn’t run off, but Violette said the horse had a cut on his foot that he believes was created by Gypsum Johnny, right next to him, stepping on him in the gate.

“There's a cut in the middle of his foot that you wouldn't get any other way, and that's when he bolted through the doors,” Violette said. “Then he was so bad getting in, and that's never a problem. He's always been perfect at the gate. As long as he's all right, we were going to need the race anyway. If he cools out all right, then we'll be fine."

Violette said he may try Diversify next in a turf race during the Saratoga meet.