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Guys Reward steals Tampa Bay

TAMPA BAY STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)

The 1-2 favorite Salto appeared well on his way to an overdue first stakes victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, only to have the 14-1 Guys Reward swoop fast and late to snatch the spoils. Owned by Michael J. Bruder and trained by Dale Romans, the seven-year-old veteran prevailed in his third start back from a year-long layoff, and rewarded his loyalists with a $31.60 win mutuel.

Guys Reward had back class as the winner of the 2012 Firecracker Handicap and Opening Verse at Churchill Downs. Off for nearly 12 months, he resurfaced in a November 9 optional claimer over the Matt Winn turf and checked in an encouraging third. Guys Reward regressed next time when 10th of 11 in the December 28 El Prado at Gulfstream, about 14 lengths behind near-miss runner-up Salto. Their rematch at Tampa was a different story.

In the early going, Salto was perched in third, tracking the two longest shots on the board. The 54-1 Mellow Fellow posted fractions of :24 ⅕, :48 ⅕ and 1:11 ⅘ on the yielding turf, attended by the 49-1 Dannhauser. Guys Reward was anchored at or near the rear by Abdiel Jaen.

Salto made his move turning into the stretch and quickly put away the pace factors. As the son of Pivotal opened up by daylight, he looked on the verge of joining half-brother Silent Name as a graded stakes winner.

Then Guys Reward kicked into high gear inside the final sixteenth, and kept Salto confined to the ranks of a stakes bridesmaid. Guys Reward won going away by 1 ½ lengths while completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 ⅖.

Salto held second by three-quarters of a length from Golden Sabre, who got rolling late from last. Riding the River checked in fourth, followed by Dannhauser, Mellow Fellow, Looking Cool, Super Chunky and Nicklaus Way, whose half-sister Please Explain had trounced the Suncoast earlier on the card. Seal Cove, Philly Ace and Humble and Hungry were all scratched.

With this third career stakes victory to his credit, Guys Reward sports a mark of 41-8-5-10, $650,312. The son of Grand Reward has compiled six stakes placings -- the off-the-turf Cradle as a juvenile in 2009; the 2010 American Turf, Transylvania and Commonwealth Turf; the 2011 Louisville Handicap, where he was beaten all of a head in third; and the 2012 Ben Ali over Keeneland's Polytrack, winding up a distant third behind track-record setting Wise Dan.

Bred by Haymarket Farm in Kentucky, Guys Reward was twice led out unsold at Keeneland. He RNA'd for $14,000 as a November weanling and again for $27,000 as a yearling the following September. The dark bay was produced by the Mr. Greeley mare Beach View, and although there's little black type of note under his first three dams, he descends from the high-profile family European champion and leading sire Giant's Causeway.