Last seen when he finished second to Connect in the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack, the Arnaud Delacour trainee looked as though he had never left the track. He completed the seven furlongs in 1:22:07 over a muddy, sealed main track for his second stakes win and first since the 2015 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G3).
"I think it was impressive. I was a little bit surprised to see him be right there and almost pulling a little bit," Delacour said. "He showed a lot more speed than I thought that he would, which was a good thing."
"We were going seven-eighths, and my instructions were to get him to break and let him be comfortable. He broke on top with very fast horses, so I was very impressed with that."
Royal Squeeze broke sharply and was sent to the lead from his far outside post by jockey Feargal Lynch. He ran the first quarter-mile in :23.44, as Divining Rod was settled in second and in the clear under a strong hold from jockey Daniel Centeno, while Vorticity kept pace along the rail.
Divining Rod, who was sprinting for the first time in his career, cruised up to Royal Squeeze after a half-mile in :47.06 and took over the top spot without resistance as he straightened for home. He covered six furlongs in 1:10.43 and expanded his lead through the stretch under a hand ride.
"I was on him a couple times when he was working and he was going great," Centeno said. "It was a short field, so sometimes you have to change your plans. I thought (Vorticity) was going to send, but then (Royal Squeeze) broke so sharp, I just let him go. I just sat outside and after that he took the lead. At the three-eighths pole he was driving me. He was doing everything on his own."
Multiple grade 3-placed Vorticity, winner of the 2015 Marylander, finished well clear of the rest for second. Late-running Rockinn On Bye edged Royal Squeeze by a head for fourth and was followed far back by Southern Barbecue.
Divining Rod improved his record to 5-3-5 from 14 starts and pushed his earnings up to $776,604.
Delacour said the one-mile Kelso Handicap (G2) Sept. 23 at Belmont Park would be the likely next step for Divining Rod, but the trainer is not ruling out a quick turnaround for the seven-furlong Forego (G1) Aug. 26 at Saratoga Race Course, a race he won last year with A. P. Indian.
"I had in mind before this race the Kelso at Belmont, because it was good timing," Delacour said, "but I might look at the Forego in case he comes back very well. It’s two weeks from now, so that’s kind of short, but we’ll see how the horse is and where we’ll go."