OCEANPORT STAKES | PURSE: $170,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
Michael J. Bruder's Guys Reward mowed down gallant front runner Fredericksburg in Sunday's Grade 3, $170,000 Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth, notching his fourth career stakes victory. The seven-year-old veteran was most recently third in the Firecracker at Churchill Downs to Silver Max, the runaway winner of the 2013 Oceanport.
Guys Reward was dispatched as the 9-2 second choice, with 2-1 favoritism going to the repatriated Mshawish in his U.S. debut. But the favorite didn't receive the best of trips, while Guys Reward enjoyed a textbook passage courtesy of Paco Lopez.
Fredericksburg bounded out to the early lead, prompted by Slim Shadey through an opening quarter in :24 ⅗ seconds. Mshawish, who was near the back of the pack passing the stands for the first time, hustled up and passed most of the field rounding the clubhouse turn. A rank Joe Tess also pulled his way forward, and along with Mshawish, joined Fredericksburg and Slim Shadey to make it a line of four abreast at the half in :48 ⅗ seconds.
Mshawish couldn't sustain his momentum, however, as they continued down the backstretch, and he ultimately retreated. Joe Tess also conceded to the top two, and Fredericksburg and Slim Shadey pulled away.
Although Slim Shadey matched strides with the longtime leader through six furlongs in 1:10 ⅗, Fredericksburg repelled his pace nemesis at the top of the lane and edged clear. But after running the gauntlet of early challengers, he was about to face a much tougher opponent with fresher legs.
Guys Reward, who had been settled off the pace, improved his position riding the rail on the far turn, and peeled out to offer his bid in the stretch. As the Dale Romans charge collared the pacesetter, Fredericksburg tried to fight back. But Guys Reward would not allow him to reclaim the advantage. One length on top at the wire, Guys Reward negotiated 1 1/16 firm-turf miles in 1:40 ⅖ and paid $11.20 to win.
Under Control got up for third, and Michael With Us rallied for fourth. Next came Slim Shadey, Mshawish, Change of Command, Lochte, Shkspeare Shaliyah and Joe Tess.
Guys Reward has compiled a record of 46-9-5-11, $777,709. In addition to wins in the 2012 Opening Verse and Firecracker as well as the February 1 Tampa Bay, the son of Grand Reward has placed in seven stakes -- the off-the-turf Cradle as a juvenile in 2009; the 2010 American Turf, Transylvania and Commonwealth Turf; the 2011 Louisville Handicap, where he was beaten all of a head in third; the 2012 Ben Ali over Keeneland's Polytrack, winding up a distant third behind track-record setting Wise Dan; and his aforementioned third in the June 28 Firecracker.
Two starts back, he was fourth to Speaking of Which in the June 8 Monmouth, which has turned out to be a key race in the turf division. Monmouth runner-up Hangover Kid went on to capture the Bowling Green, and also-rans Finnegans Wake and Admiral Kitten ran one-two in the Arlington Handicap.
Bred by Haymarket Farm in Kentucky, Guys Reward was twice led out unsold at Keeneland. He RNA'd for $14,000 as a November weanling and again for $27,000 as a yearling the following September. The dark bay was produced by the Mr. Greeley mare Beach View, and although there's little black type of note under his first three dams, he descends from the high-profile family of European champion and leading sire Giant's Causeway. The family has been in the news in Europe this summer as well, thanks to Marvellous' victory in the Irish One Thousand Guineas and well-regarded juvenile Gleneagles scoring in the Tyros.