The 6-year-old Tribal Rule gelding began racing in 2013 and has only made six starts, but has won his last four spread across four seasons, including his first stakes win Friday in the $75,000 Green Flash Handicap.
Of a nearly 13-month layoff, the Blake Heap trainee ran into too much trouble to win a five-furlong turf sprint, yet still won under jockey Victor Espinoza in the final strides. The California-bred broke slow from post 3, checked multiple times in the turn on the heels of graded winner St. Joe Bay, but found an inside seam in the stretch, and surged to the wire to win by a head over 29-1 longshot Gutsy Ruler in a final time of :56.93.
In the final furlong Tribalist was in sixth place, 3 1/4 lengths behind Gutsy Ruler, who had outdueled 3-2 favorite Richard's Boy until then.
After two maiden special weight placings to start his career—a third on the Del Mar synthetic in 2013 and a second on the Santa Anita Park downhill turf course in 2014—Tribalist first broke through back on the Del Mar synthetic main track in July of 2014.
Then came a full year off, and he won again, this time sprinting on the Del Mar turf in a conditional state-bred allowance in August of 2015. Another year, another victory, as he returned in another conditional allowance—outside of the state-bred ranks—in another Del Mar turf sprint.
"He's a little bit hard on himself, because he's such an athlete," Heap said before the Green Flash, when asked about Tribalist's frequent, extended layoffs. "He wants to explode, at any second, all the time. He's so fast and he's so strong that he does hurt himself a little bit."
But Tribalist's first three wins all came on or pressing the pace, so the Green Flash victory displayed an entirely different winning tactic (although he did show stalk-and-pounce ability during his downhill race in 2014).
Owned by breeders Robert Abrams and Mitchell Dutko, along with Michael Paran, Tribalist is out of the Cee's Tizzy mare Ultimate Summer. He has a 4-1-1 record from six starts, with $220,900 in earnings.