Hard-working Guys Reward, making the 46th start of his career, wore down pacesetter Fredericksburg in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the $170,000 Metropolitan Jets Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the Monmouth Park turf July 27.
The 1 1/16-mile test immediately preceded the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on a stakes-filled card at the Jersey shore Sunday.
Guys Reward was able to save ground while advancing to midpack for jockey Paco Lopez before angling out three paths wide in upper stretch. Charging home with determination, the powerfully built 7-year-old son of Grand Reward swept past Slim Shadey and Fredericksburg to win by one length in a time of 1:40.48 over firm going.
Dale Romans trains 9-2 shot Guys Reward, who scored his second graded stakes win of the year for owner Michael Bruder.
Third in the Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) last time out at Churchill Downs, Guys Reward had lost four straight since winning the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) Feb. 1, but had closed with interest each time.
"I thought he was waiting a little closer than he usually does (this time)," Romans said. "But it looked like he needed to. He’s just a good, old hard campaigner. When the horse is right, he gives you his all, and he did that today."
Fredericksburg, ridden by Luis Saez, carved modest fractions of :24.64, :48.73, and 1:10.72 while keeping Slim Shadey at bay, and led by one length at the furlong marker while digging in gamely as he came under assault from Guys Reward. But Guys Reward, under urging from Lopez, proved too tough in the drive for the wire.
Third was Brazilian-bred Under Control, who closed with interest under Trevor McCarthy while finishing three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.
Then came Michael With Us, Slim Shadey, 2-1 favorite Mshawish, Change of Command, Lochte, Shkspeare Shaliyah, and Joe Tess.
Mshawish, a group II winner at Meydan and making in his United States debut for Al Shaqab Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher, made a strong middle move from near the rear of the 10-horse field, but gave way in the stretch.
Bred in Kentucky by Haymarket Farm, Guys Reward recorded his ninth lifetime victory—and his third graded stakes win—while extending his earnings to $777,709. The dark bay also won the 2012 Firecracker.
The second choice while shouldering co-top weight of 123 pounds, Guys Reward paid $11.20, $4.80, and $3.20. Fredericksburg returned $6.60 and $4.80, completing a $73.60 exacta in a game effort. Under Control paid $8.40 to show.
The old pro Guys Reward was privately acquired by Bruder after the colt was bought back for $27,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. He was the last reported foal by his dam, the Mr. Greeley mare Beach View. His third dam, Sun Blush, is a half sister to grade II winner Mariah's Storm, who produced European Horse of the Year and three-time leading sire Giant's Causeway .