07/02/2011 7:09PM

Belmont Park: Dominus breaks through with Dwyer victory

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Tom Keyser
Dominus, with Julien Leparoux riding, wins the Dwyer.

ELMONT, N.Y. - In an injury-riddled 3-year-old division seeking reinforcements, Dominus may have established himself as one to watch in the second half of the year.

Having overcome his share of physical issues, Dominus delivered on the promise his connections always believed he had with a front-running, 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. Adios Charlie, the 4-5 favorite, chased Dominus all the way around the track but had to settle for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Cool Blue Red Hot. Tech Fall, Malibu Glow, and Harlan's Hello completed the order of finish. Rocking Out scratched.

It was the first stakes victory for Dominus, who was making just his fourth career start. He was coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in April, where he was run down late by Machen. A stone bruise prevented him from running in the Matt Winn Stakes two weeks ago at Churchill, according to trainer Steve Asmussen.

Last fall, Dominus suffered a four-inch cut in his right hind leg in a stall mishap the day he was to have run in a maiden race at Churchill Downs. The issue forced him to miss several months and basically knocked him off the Triple Crown trail. He didn't win his first race until March 26 at Santa Anita.

“It's nice to have him break through,” said George Bolton, who owns Dominus along with Barbara Banke - the widow of Jess Jackson - and B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm. “The sad part is he might have been competitive this spring. We still have the whole second half of the year. He was always one of Steve Asmussen's top few [3-year-olds]. It's nice to see him do it today.”

Dominus did it while able to establish a relatively soft early lead under Julien Leparoux. He opened a clear advantage through a quarter of 24.28 seconds, a half-mile in 47.86 seconds, and six furlongs in 1:11.76. Adios Charlie and Cool Blue Red Hot attempted to make a run at Dominus turning for home, but Leparoux had too much horse, and he and Dominus ran away from their rivals in the stretch. Dominus, a son of Smart Strike, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.74 and returned $7.80 as the second choice.

"I thought they were gonna press me a little bit, but they left me alone the first part," Leparoux said. "I was glad. He's a nice horse. He did the rest after that."

Leparoux had ridden Dominus in his career debut at Belmont where he stumbled out of the gate and finished second. He said he told Asmussen afterward "he'd be special, and he proved us right today."

"He's special. I'm glad to see him reach this level," Asmussen said. "Everybody has been aware of how much we loved his horse all along. He just had some little unfortunate things. Hopefully, we're on track at a time when everything's wide-open."

Asmussen said Dominus would be shipped to Saratoga early next week. Races such as the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 30 or the Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 31 would be under consideration.

* Hungry Island, last until the quarter pole, was spun five-wide by Alex Solis turning for home and rocketed past her seven rivals in the stretch to win the $60,000 Recording Stakes by three lengths over My Redbyrd. It was a length back to Parting Words in third. Hungry Island, a daughter of More Than Ready, won for the third consecutive time for owner Emory Hamilton and trainer Shug McGaughey. She covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.59 and returned $15.60 to win.