Making his first stakes start in open company, New York-bred Zivo rocketed up the rail and went on to post a three-length upset of Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap on Stars & Stripes Day at Belmont Park.
Trained by Chad Brown for breeder-owner Thomas Coleman, the 5-year-old son of True Direction was content to run at the back of the back as Moreno towed the field of 11 through fractions of 23.58, 46.93 and 1:10.70. Given his cue by Jose Lezcano on the turn, Zivo gradually moved into striking position and launched his dramatic late run once straightened away for home, grabbing the lead with 110 yards to go and crossing under the wire in 2:00.43 for 1 ¼ miles.
"Chad told me the horse was doing very good," said Lezcano, who won the Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship and the Grade 1, $1.25 Belmont Derby Invitational immediately preceding the Suburban. "He told me to let him break and sit and make one run. He gave me what I needed to win the race. I had plenty of horse. [Moreno] kept going, but my horse came running."
Sent off at 13-1, Zivo returned $29.40 for a $2 win bet as he extended his 2014 record to 5-for-5, including victories in the restricted Commentator, Kings Point and Whodam stakes. Now 9-2-4 from 15 career starts, Zivo has amassed $782,000 in career earnings.
"This horse has really come around well and it was time to step out of New York-bred company and try him in an open company race with a big purse," said Brown, who said he did not commit to running Zivo until Saturday morning. "Tom Coleman, the owner, who bred the horse, we work as a team. He said, 'Let's just enter and look.' All the way until this morning, he wasn't really committed to coming in from the Hamptons. He said, 'You want me to come?' I said, 'Let's try it. The horse is training well enough and he loves Belmont, let's try it.' Once I saw the strong pace, I knew he'd come running. That last eighth was definitely as strong as I've seen from him. But then again, he's a horse that's only gotten better."
The pace-setting Moreno held on for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Prayer for Relief.
"We were going fast, but they're all good horses and you can't get an easy lead in a race like this," said Moreno's jockey, Junior Alvarado. "He was game. As soon as I asked him turning for home, he was there for me. At the end, a better horse passed me. He gave me everything he had."
Romansh, the 2-1 favorite, was never a factor as he checked in fifth, two lengths behind fourth-place finisher Ever Rider.
"Once he got out, the pace was certainly strong enough in front of him that he should have kicked off," said Tom Albertrani, trainer of the beaten favorite. "At one point he looked like he was going to do it, but he just emptied out down the stretch. He'll do that once in a while, it looks like. We'll regroup and come back at Saratoga."
Finishing sixth was Mylute, who was followed under the wire by Micromanage, Norumbega, Last Gunfighter, Stormin Monarcho, and Vyjack, who was eased through the stretch.