Hero's Tribute outlasted E Dubai through a protracted speed duel to earn his first career stakes win in Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old son of Sea Hero completed the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race in 1:47.47 on a sloppy track in earning his first win in a race longer than seven furlongs.
Equipped with blinkers for the first time Saturday, Hero's Tribute broke sharply and dueled early on with 7-10 favorite E Dubai, running the first quarter-mile in :22.55, with Dayton Flyer 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Hero's Tribute and E Dubai continued on the torrid pace, running a half-mile in :44.87, with Dayton Flyer unable to keep up. Hero's Tribute gained an advantage on the turn, but E Dubai regrouped approaching the stretch as the pair ran six furlongs in 1:08.59. Hero's Tribute drew clear in the stretch while running a mile in 1:33.75 and increased his advantage to the wire, winning by 3 3/4 lengths.
E Dubai finished 10 lengths clear of third-place Dayton Flyer, with a gap of 2 1/2 lengths back to fourth-place Sirpa. Meetyouathebrig, Telescam, and I Love Silver completed the order of finish.
Hero's Tribute is trained by John T. Ward Jr. for owner John C. Oxley and was ridden to victory by Jorge Chavez, the same connections as Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.
"Jorge (Chavez) always had a tough time choosing between this horse and Monarchos and this proves he was right," said Ward. "He had wanted me to put blinkers on him for a while, and this proved that this was what Hero's Tribute needed. ... Obviously, the blinkers were what he needed. When he worked at Churchill Downs after the Derby, we put blinkers on him and he went good. He went the last eighth in :11 1/5 the day before the Preakness at Pimlico."
After winning a Gulfstream Park allowance race in his seasonal debut, Hero's Tribute then finished third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and a dull seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). He missed some training and a scheduled start in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard due to a quarter crack and ran in a bar shoe Saturday. As a juvenile, Hero's Tribute finished second to Meetyouathebrig in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) on the Breeders' Cup undercard and seventh in the Futurity (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Hero's Tribute is out of the Damascus mare Eastern Dawn and was bred in Kentucky by Dr. and Mrs. R. Smiser West and Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie Miller. He earned $120,000 for the win, his fourth in eight starts.
Hero's Tribute returned $13.60, $4.50, and $3.30 and led an exacta worth $37. E Dubai paid $2.80 and $2.40. Dayton Flyer was worth $4 to show.
"We'll look for one more race on the East Coast and then go to the Swaps (gr. I, July 15th at Hollywood Park)," said Ward.
E Dubai will be pointed to the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont on July 8, according to assistant trainer Tom Albertrani.
Third-place Dayton Flyer stumbled at the start, according to trainer Rober Barbara.
"He didn't handle the track," said Barbara, who was hoping to use the Peter Pan as a stepping stone to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). "I was glad he didn't get involved in that early pace. We're not going to the Belmont." (Chart, Equibase