Beaten in the final jump in his stakes debut during his last start, Dominus was not to be caught this time, as he took the field wire-to-wire to win the $150,000 Dwyer (gr. II) (VIDEO) July 2 at Belmont Park.
With Julien Leparoux aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen, Dominus took advantage of an easy first quarter-mile in :24.28 and controlled the race from that point on, coasting through the stretch to score by 1 3/4 lengths. The final time for 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt was an impressive 1:41.74.
Asmussen, who won the Dwyer in 2009 with Kensei, saddled the winner for Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton, and Spendthrift Farm. Ironically, about 10 minutes after the Dwyer, Kensei would go on to score the Salvator Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth Park.
It was the second win in four lifetime starts for Dominus. The 3-year-old son of Smart Strike was bred in Virginia by the late Edward P. Evans.
After wresting a brief, early lead way from odds-on favorite Adios Charlie and gliding through the comfortable opening quarter, Dominus continued his lead through a :47.86 half-mile and then ran six furlongs in 1:11.76. Adios Charlie was still chasing him under Rajiv Maragh and when they straightened away Cool Blue Red Hot moved into contention from the outside.
But Dominus was never seriously challenged in the short stretch and cruised to the wire for his first stakes victory. Adios Charlie, winner of the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) in April and beaten a head in the Peter PanStakes (gr. II) last out, settled for second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Cool Blue Red Hot and John Velazquez.
“Very nice," Leparoux said. "Looking on paper, it seemed like we were going to have some speed in there. I thought maybe we would sit behind it, but they kind of left me alone the first part and he relaxed well for me and finished up very nice. He’s a very nice horse.”
Dominus was entering off a heartbreaking loss in The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) April 30 at Churchill Downs when he took a clear lead into the stretch only to be run down by Machen at the wire. He broke his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita in his season debut March 26.
"Hopefully this is just a steppingstone to big things," Asmussen said. "We had planned on running him a couple of weeks ago, but had a little issue with a foot and missed some time. He stepped up (today). It was a nice field, and he’ll ship from here to Saratoga the next day or two. Obviously, with the 3-year-old races that are left, we think we are in good shape. It’s an extremely wide-open year.”
Dominus, who upped his earnings to $175,829, is out of the Lord At War mare Cuando.
Sent off as the second choice in a field of six, Dominus paid $7.80, $3.30, and $2.70. The exacta (2-7) returned $16.40 and the trifecta (2-7-6) was worth $45.20.