Updated on 09/17/2011 10:09PM

Grand Reward hangs on

Shawn Coady/Coady Photography
Grand Reward (inside) holds off Second of June (center) and Eddington (outside) to win the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Grand Reward stole the Grade 2, $500,000 at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, cruising on the lead in the early stages and holding off a late bid from Second of June to win the race by a neck. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third to 4-5 favorite Eddington.

The win was the first in a stakes for the 4-year-old Grand Reward, a son of Storm Cat and Serena's Song. He covered the 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.54.

Grand Reward ($8.40) broke well under jockey John McKee and was left alone on the lead through fractions of 24.54 seconds for the opening quarter and 49.45 seconds for the half-mile mark. Second of June raced in second, followed by Limehouse and Eddington. Grand Reward continued to lead the field through six furlongs in 1:13.32, and in deep stretch held off Second of June and a charging Eddington. Crowned King and Limehouse completed the order of finish in the Oaklawn Handicap.

Wayne Lukas, who trains Grand Reward, said last week that he opted for the Oaklawn Handicap over the Carter at Belmont on Saturday because he wanted to keep Grand Reward racing around two turns. In his last start, Grand Reward was fourth to Rock Hard Ten in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Grand Reward earned $300,000 for the win, and his record now stands at 4 wins from 14 starts for earnings of $530,981. He races for the partnership of Lewis, Magnier, and Tabor.

The Oaklawn Handicap was the first stakes of the annual Racing Festival of the South, a series of nine stakes run over the last six days of Oaklawn. Purses for the stakes total $2,775,000.

The attendance at Oaklawn on Saturday was a meet-high 39,787.