Guys Reward circled the field on the far turn under Shaun Bridgmohan and wore down Seruni in the final yards to pay $6.40, $3 and $2.60 as the second betting choice. Seruni, owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing LLC, held on to finish a clear second under Corey Lanerie and returned $2.40 and $2.20. Peter J. Callahan’s Scotus, ridden by Victor Lebron, was three lengths back of the top pair in third and returned $2.80.
A 5-year-old son of Grand Reward trained by Dale Romans, Guys Reward had displayed an affinity for the Churchill Downs turf course throughout his career and narrowly missed a stakes win in May 2011 when he finished third in a dramatic three-horse finish in the Grade III Louisville Handicap, where he lost by a head to Keertana and Bearpath. With his Opening Verse victory, Guys Reward has now competed eight times over the Churchill Downs turf course with a record of 4-1-2 and has earned $212,355. His overall record stands at 6-5-9 in 33 races with earnings of $443,297.
Bridgmohan settled Guys Reward at the back of the six-horse field after the break as Steve’s Double and Zimmer contested the pace over firm turf and led the field through early fractions of :24.14 for the quarter-mile and :47.82 at the half-mile. Seruni, who tracked the leaders in third, launched a bid on the far turn, collared Steve’s Double after six furlongs in 1:12.08 and drew clear to lead by a length in mid-stretch. But Guys Reward, who rallied five-wide on the far turn and was pushed further out on the track during the stretch run, wore down the favored Seruni in the final strides.
“Dale has done a phenomenal job with him,” Bridgmohan said. “I was loaded the whole way and all I had to do was keep him out of trouble, and he did the rest.”
Sal the Barber finished fourth, ahead of Steve’s Double and Zimmer.
Archaemenes and Middie were late scratches from the Opening Verse
The race is named for Allen Paulson’s Opening Verse, who won 10 of 30 career starts and earned nearly $1.7 million in his career. Opening Verse enjoyed major success over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course, where he won the 1991 Early Times Turf Classic (GIII, now the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic) and later that year returned to Churchill Downs to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI).