The grass proved greener for Dominus at Saratoga Race Course Sept. 1, when the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike took the $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT). It was his first graded stakes score and his first try on turf (VIDEO).
Data Link, even-money favorite in a field of six, made a run at the wire-to-wire winner coming off the far turn but only managed second. Sky Blazer, left at the break, closed gamely for third. Dominus ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.32.
Bred in Virginia by Edward P. Evans, the winner is out of the Lord At War mare Cuando and is owned by George Bolton, Stonestreet Stables, and Spendthrift Farm.
Sent off the 9-5 second choice, Dominus was away alertly at the start and immediately settled to an easy gallop on the lead, ticking off soft early fractions of :24.29 and :48.63. Guys Reward tracked about 1 1/2 lengths back in third and Data Link was just off his flank to the outside.
No one pressed the issue as jockey Julien Leparoux kept Dominus loping along through three-quarters in 1:12.26. When the tempo quickened turning for home, the bay ridgling responded to urging with a speedy kick, completing the mile in 1:34.49.
"We kind of anticipated he would be on the lead," winning trainer Todd Pletcher remarked. "The fractions were comfortable and he relaxed nicely. Things went just like we hoped. I would have been disappointed if he'd gotten beat after the :48 half."
Dominus hit the wire a 1 1/4-length winner and improved his record to 4-2-1 from eight starts, with earnings of $439,329.
"He was the only speed in the race, he just galloped easy, broke easy, and it was pretty easy for him," Leparoux said. "It was very nice for me at the end. He's a nice horse. First time on the grass, he was relaxed. He ran very big today. He's got this long stride, but when you ask him he's pretty light on himself, so hopefully we'll keep going like this and win more big ones."
Dominius returned $5.70, $2.90, and $2.50 while Data Link brought back $2.60 and $2.10, and Sky Blazer paid $3.40. Guys Reward, Queen'splatekitten, and Prince Will I Am completed the order of finish. Crimson China and Alma d'Oro, the latter entered for the main track only, scratched.
Dominius returned from an 11-month layoff Aug. 4 with a solid 4 1/4-length victory going seven furlongs on the dirt at Saratoga for Pletcher, who took over training this season from Steve Asmussen.
"There are tons of options," Pletcher said of the runner's next target. "He's still obviously a very nice dirt horse. It puts us in a position to pursue a lot of options."
In 2011, Asmussen trained Dominus to a Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) victory. He was also second in the Cliff's Edge Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III), third in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), and fourth in the Foxwood's King's Bishop (gr. I).