Tom's Tribute became a grade I winner July 20 when he held even-money favorite Summer Front safe through the homestretch to register a 1 1/4-length victory in the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes (VIDEO) on the Del Mar turf.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith earned his first win in the Eddie Read with a confident ride. The winning 4-year-old colt by Lion Heart is trained by Jim Cassidy for owner Braly Family Trust.
"It was a beautiful ride. I think I'll vote for Mike Smith for the Hall of Fame next year," said Cassidy, adding that this was the most professional race of Tom's Tribute's career.
Laura and Ouisha McKinney bred the winning chestnut colt in Kentucky.
Tom's Tribute was timed in a solid 1:46.01 for 1 1/8 miles over a firm turf course. Summer Front was second, with Spring Up third. Pacesetter Horizontalyspeakin checked in fourth in the first grade I event of the young 2014 Del Mar summer meet.
Six horses contested this year's Eddie Read with New York shipper Summer Front taking the heavy betting off a non-threatening second to standout Obviously in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) June 14 at Santa Anita Park. Tom's Tribute, who dead-heated for third in Shoemaker while half a length behind Summer Front, was a clear second choice.
Breaking from the outside post in the compact field, Tom's Tribute was stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time in his career. He passed the test smartly.
Tom's Tribute settled comfortably in second on the outside of Horizontalyspeakin, who took advantage of a lack of speed in the field to open up by about three lengths under Joe Talamo. Horizontalyspeakin set a solid tempo with quarter mile fractions of :23.75, :46.90, and 1:10.24, with Tom's Tribute, Summer Front, and the rest of the field chasing in single file up the backstretch.
Approaching the quarter pole, the field began to tighten up. Tom's Tribute, always traveling nicely for Smith, challenged for the lead while four paths wide in upper stretch, getting past Horizantalyspeakin. The eventual winner got first run on Summer Front, also swinging into gear for Joe Bravo, and after opening up daylight past mid-stretch, proved too difficult to catch under steady handling.
"He really relaxed today. That's the key with this horse," said Smith after his second stakes win at the four-day-old meet. "It was nice having that pace up front. We sat in right behind him (Horizontalyspeakin) and were real comfortable. Because he was so relaxed, when it came time he had lots. He won like he wanted to."
Summer Front ran on well from the outside but could make little impression on Tom's Tribute late to finish second for the third straight race, with Spring Up and five-time Eddie Read winner Corey Nakatani another length back in third. Horizontalyspeakin was followed home by by Unbridled Command and Cogito.
Tom's Tribute's only previous stakes win came in the one-mile Thunder Road April 6 at Santa Anita when he was timed in a flashy 1:31.78, tying the course mark set by Wise Dan in winning the 2012 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
Cassidy, who previously won the Eddie Read in 2010 with The Usual Q. T., said: "We had originally planned on the Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT scheduled Aug. 24) and not this race, but then I changed my mind. I don't know what's next but we'll be thinking about the Breeders' Cup (Mile)."
Out of the stakes-placed El Prado mare Halloween Fun, Tom's Tribute sold twice at auction. The first time, at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, the chestnut brought $60,000 from Purpoodock Bloodstock out of the Stony Point, agent, consignment. At the March 2012 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company selected sale of 2-year-olds in training, Mary Braly signed the ticket for $310,000 from consignor Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne).
Tom's Tribute, the second winner from three starters produced by his dam, improved his career line to 5-3-1 in 12 races with earnings of $442,880.
The winner carried 119 pounds and paid $6.60, $3.20, and $2.80, topping a chalky $11.40 exacta. Summer Front, second by a nose in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) the last time trainer Christophe Clement shipped him to Southern California, returned $2.40 and $2.20. Spring Up, now grade I-placed in his first try at the level for trainer John Sadler, paid $3.80.