07/01/2012 9:53PM

Churchill Downs: Firecracker win enables Romans, Lanerie to end meet with a bang


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Dale Romans and Corey Lanerie capped a memorable spring meet at Churchill Downs when teaming Sunday to win the closing-night feature, the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap, with Guys Reward.

Lanerie always had Guys Reward in a good stalking spot in the one-mile turf race. Inside the furlong pole, they finally surged to the lead when overtaking Seruni and front-running Night Party, then finished powerfully to prevail by two lengths. Seruni kept coming to be second, with Night Party holding third and Turallure, the 3-5 favorite, failing to kick when finishing fourth. Silver Rock rounded out the order.

“It was a great way to close things out,” said Romans, a Louisville native who won the training title for the ninth time, but the first time since 2006. Guys Reward “is a nice horse who’s getting good at the right time.”

Guys Reward returned $9 after finishing in 1:38.46 over a yielding course. He earned $102,858 from the $165,900 total purse to lift his bankroll to $516,155. It was the third Firecracker win for Romans, following Kitten’s Joy (2005) and Thorn Song (2008).

Guys Reward, owned by Mike Bruder, is a 5-year-old horse by Grand Reward. He now has won three races in a row, all over the Churchill turf, and 7 of 34 lifetime. In fact, 5 of those 7 wins have come on the Churchill turf. Bruder, an Evansville, Ind., businessman, said the Grade 2 Fourstardave on Aug. 11 at Saratoga is a possible next race for Guys Reward.

While Romans was the leading trainer at the 38-day spring meet, Lanerie dominated the jockey standings for his first Churchill title.

Turallure, with Julien Leparoux in to ride, appeared to labor behind the relatively slow fractions set by Night Party. An earner of more than $1.15 million last year, the 5-year-old Turallure now is 0 for 3 this year, all as the favorite.

Post time for the Firecracker, the seventh of 10 closing-night races, was delayed by more than 40 minutes because of a fierce thunderstorm that hit shortly before the fifth race, which was supposed to go at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. The main track went from fast to sloppy, and the turf was transformed to yielding, with the last race of the night transferred from turf to the main track. It was the third such lengthy weather delay at the meet, following a hailstorm on opening night, April 28, and a rainstorm and tornado warning on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 4.

Mandurah was an early scratch from the Firecracker because of a foot abscess, said trainer Grant Forster.