Heros Reward, making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last October, rallied from off the pace and edged a pair of rivals at the wire to take the $100,000 Shakertown (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) April 11 on the Keeneland Turf.
A 7-year-old son of Partner's Hero, Heros Reward was making his first start over the Keeneland grass for trainer Dale Capuano, but that, nor the five and half month layoff seemed to bother the dark bay gelding, who earned his 11th win in 28 lifetime starts.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Heros Reward was seventh through the early going of the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, as Mr. Nightlinger, the winner of last year’s Shakertown, set brisk fractions of :22.25 and :45.87. After pressing the pace, Chamberlain Bridge took over at the top of the lane. Cannonball, who was between horses under Rene Douglas, and Heros Reward on the outside, were the biggest threats to Chamberlain Bridge inside the sixteenth-pole.
Chamberlain Bridge still held his narrow advantage until the final yards, but Heros Reward got up in the final strides to post the thrilling win. He edged out Cannonball by a head, while tough-luck Chamberlain Bridge was another head back in third under Garrett Gomez. Due Date was fourth. The final time on the turf course labeled good was 1:04.24.
"That's exactly what I saw before the race," Castellano said. "I waited until we were turning for home and he responded well."
Heros Reward is owned by Charles Haynes’ Rob Ry Farm and Jayne Slysz. He was bred in Maryland by Gretchen Mobberley and is out of the Caveat mare Lifes Passage.
Heros Reward won three of seven starts in 2008, including the Scotts Highlander Stakes (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine. He was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita to close out his campaign. The gelding has now earned $973,216 in his career.
"He's been a terrific horse to have," Capuano said. "He runs in all types of turf courses. He's a gem."
The winner paid $12.60, $6.20 and $4.60. The exacta (10-5) was worth $113.40 and the trifecta (10-5-9) returned $793.60.
Mr. Nightlinger, the 2-1 favorite, finished fifth.