A. Stevens Miles Jr.’s Warrior's Reward, who lost a tough duel with Successful Dan three weeks ago in the Northern Dancer (gr. III), will look to break through for his first graded stakes score in the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes (gr. III) July 4 at Belmont Park.
Though he will face no graded stakes winners in the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer, Warrior’s Reward will not have it easy. Several of the 3-year-old contenders enter off impressive maiden or allowance scores, and Kensei has been graded stakes-placed twice this season. A field of seven was entered for the Dwyer, the first of three graded stakes on the Belmont program.
Warrior’s Reward stalked the pace under Calvin Borel and took a short lead in upper stretch in the June 13 Northern Dancer at Churchill Downs, but was overtaken in the final yards in losing by a head to the game Successful Dan. The son of Medaglia d'Oro—For All You Do, by Seeking the Gold, scored by 2 1/4 lengths in an allowance sprint at Churchill two weeks prior that that.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Warrior’s Reward turned in a bullet five furlong move in 1:00.20 June 29 at Churchill. The bay colt will be ridden by Borel once again and break from the rail.
Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farms’ Kensei finished as runner-up to Hull in the April 25 Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill and last out was third, beaten 5 1/4 lengths, by Munnings in the Woody Stephens (gr. II) June 6 at Belmont. The Mr. Greeley colt will be stretching out past a mile for the first time for Steve Asmussen. Edgar Prado gets the mount for the first time.
“He’s really come around nicely this year,” Asmussen said. “A mile and a sixteenth is a question for him, but he came out of the Woody Stephens well. He’s never been in an easy race.”
The other five starters all enter of wins, including Zayat Stables’ Just Ben, who romped by nearly 14 lengths in an optional claimer June 6 at Belmont Park. Just Ben, by Speightstown and unraced as a juvenile, has won two of five starts this season for Nick Zito. He will try two turns for the first time.
Also impressive in an allowance win was Edward Evans’ American Dance. The Virginia-bred son of A.P. Indy went wire-to-wire in a nine-furlong allowance score May 21 at Belmont, winning by 6 1/4 lengths for Todd Pletcher. The gray/roan colt was third to Old Fashioned in last year’s Remsen (gr. III) at Aqueduct. John Velazquez has the assignment.
“He seems to be an improving colt,” said Pletcher. “I am hoping his last race was a breakthrough for him. I wish the (Dwyer) was a mile and an eighth or longer, but he has been training well for this.”
Rounding out the field are Masala and Sunday Sunrise, both allowance winners earlier this month, and Convocation, who broke his maiden by almost seven lengths June 6 at Belmont. Masala, trained previously by Pletcher, won in his first start for Allen Jerkens last out.
$200,000 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:44 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Warrior's Reward (KY), C H Borel, 117, I R Wilkes
2. Convocation (KY), A Garcia, 117, J A Jerkens
3. Kensei (KY), E S Prado, 117, S M Asmussen
4. Masala (FL), C H Velasquez, 117, H A Jerkens
5. American Dance (VA), J R Velazquez, 117, T A Pletcher
6. Just Ben (VA), R Maragh, 117, N P Zito
7. Sunday Sunrise (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, S M Asmussen