Next to last going to the far turn under Mike Smith, Tom's Tribute came roaring down the stretch to win the $75,000 Thunder Road Stakes (VIDEO) at Santa Anita Park while equaling the course record by Wise Dan for a mile on turf in 1:31.78.
Wise Dan, the two-time reigning Horse of the Year, established the mark in winning the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 3, 2012.
Tom and Marilyn Braley's Tom's Tribute prevailed in a field of eight older horses by 2 1/4 lengths as the 3-1 second choice for trainer Jim Cassidy.
With 13-10 favorite Peace and Justice cutting out torrid splits of :22.02, :44.09, 1:07.77, Smith wheeled his mount wide turning for home and won geared down late.
"We broke a little slow and that turned out to be a blessing," said Smith. "If you can get this horse to shut off a little early, he's got a great kick. It doesn't happen often enough, but when I can get him to relax, he runs like this.
"I knew they were running up front, they're really fast horses up there. That really played into our hands today."
Seventh, beaten 3 1/2 lengths in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) March 8, Tom's Tribute paid $8, $3.60, and $3.20.
"Mike said he geared him down the last sixteenth," said Cassidy, who registered his second win of the day. "This is a really nice horse. He's relaxing better now and that's the key."
Tom's Tribute, a 4-year-old colt by Lion Heart bred in Kentucky by Laura and Ouisha McKinney out of the El Prado mare Halloween Fun, posted his fourth from 10 overall starts. His earnings now stand at $226,880.
The third choice at 9-2, Joelito, ridden by Corey Nakatani, got up to finish second by a nose over Bright Thought. Joelito paid $4.80 and $4.
Bright Thought, winner of the 1 1/2 mile-San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IIT) nearly 13 months ago, sat a close second early and made the lead leaving the quarter pole before coming up short in his first start since Nov. 29. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano and dispatched at 7-1, Bright Thought finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of longshot County Linemanand paid $4.60 to show.
Peace and Justice weakened to finish fifth, a head behind County Lineman.
"He felt good, but he's very high strung," said jockey Brice Blanc. "We just have to teach him to relax and be a little more mature. He's very immature mentally. He's loaded with talent. He's just immature."