Donato Lanni and John Youngblood's lightly race son of Grand Reward was making his first start on any surface other then grass and only his ninth overall for trainer Tom Proctor. But he made the transition to the track's Polytrack surface while hanging on to the end to earn his first stakes win as the 3-1 third choice.
The 4-year-old gelding maintained a clear lead throughout but had to call on all his reserves in the closing stages when 24-1 shot Hattaash charged up to challenge to his outside. He thrust out his neck to win by a head for Chris Emigh, who enjoyed the 3,500th victory of his career.
Mister Mardi Gras, the 2011 race winner, was late to the party after racing in last early in the six-horse field. Fifth entering the stretch, the 7-10 favorite rushed up to the outside of Hattaash in the final strides, getting on nearly even terms with the top pair, and finished just a neck back in third.
The final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:52.76.
Avanzare came in off a fourth in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT), the first race of his career in which he finished worse than second. He set fractions of :24.94, :50.04, and 1:1.63 through six furlongs while stalked by Gimmeadrink
, with Hattaash back in fifth. With a 2 1/2-length advantage into the stretch, he was all out as the finish line approached to get the win.
Avanzare has a 5-3-0 record from nine starts and $217,180 in earnings. He returned $8.60, $4.40, and $3 while keying a $145.60 exacta with Hattaash, who brought $17.60 and $6. Mister Mardi Gras was worth $2.60 to show.
Fordubai finished fourth, followed by Gimmeadrink and Only in America
to complete the order of finish.
Youngblood paid $52,000 to acquire Avanzare, who is out of the unraced Theatrical mare Turn the Tide, from consignor Cutting Edge Equine at the 2012 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. June sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Prior to that, he was a $1,100 yearling purchase by Linda Sims at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale when offered by Harry L. Landry Bloodstock, agent. Snow Lantern Thoroughbreds bred Avanzare in Kentucky.