02/10/2010 12:00AM

Warrior's Reward back against deep field


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - For a second-level optional claiming race, Thursday's $51,000 main event at Gulfstream Park came up a pretty salty spot for the money. The seven-furlong dash drew a full field of 12, plus three also-eligibles, attracting a lineup that includes one graded stakes winner, five graded stakes-placed horses, and a half-dozen runners who were on the Kentucky Derby trail early in their 3-year-old seasons.

Warrior's Reward, a Derby candidate at this time last year, was ultimately multiple graded stakes placed at 3, although things never quite panned out as well as trainer Ian Wilkes had hoped, especially Warrior's Reward's fifth-place finish behind Summer Bird in the 2009 Travers.

"I thought he was my Classic horse and never felt better about any horse the way he was training going into the Travers," Wilkes said. "But ultimately, I realized I was just making excuses for him every time we sent him long and came to the conclusion that what we've got is a very good, come-from-behind, one-turn sprinter."

Warrior's Reward will be making his first start since rallying from last to miss by a half-length under similar conditions at Churchill Downs on Nov. 21.

"When you go back on his form, you'll see his best races have always been one turn, like his brilliant win over Munnings at Churchill Downs," Wilkes said. "He's training great, and we've got to get him started. We'll just need for the track to back up a little, because you can have the best horse at Gulfstream and still get beat by a speed horse the way the track plays."

The graded stakes winner in the field is Break Water Edison who captured the Grade 3 Nashua at 2. Break Water Edison has not started since being eased a year ago in the Fountain of Youth. He will be saddled by trainer Rick Dutrow for the first time Thursday.

Imperial Council finished second in the Grade 3 Gotham and Peter Pan at 3 and was an impressive allowance winner here last winter. He makes his first start since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Met Mile in May.

Presto Change O finished third in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector earlier in the meet and has run his best races at Gulfstream.

Royal Vindication finished third behind Break Water Edison in the 2008 Nashua and will make his first start since being transferred to trainer Bruce Brown earlier this winter.