LOUISVILLE — Almost as soon as the gates flew open in Sunday's Grade II Firecracker Handicap, trainer Charlie Lopresti knew it was not going to be Turallure's night.
As the 1-mile turf race reached its conclusion, however, it proved once again that the 2012 Churchill Downs Spring Meet absolutely belonged to trainer Dale Romans and jockey Corey Lanerie.
With their respective meet titles already sewn up, Romans and Lanerie got their hands on the last major accolade available.
The leading trainer and rider of the Churchill meet teamed up to get Guys Reward his first graded stakes win in 34 career starts as the 5-year-old rallied down the middle of the stretch to win the race by 2 lengths over Seruni.
The Firecracker headlined the closing day of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, which featured a lengthy delay due to severe weather.
Romans, who had 22 wins coming into the night to earn his ninth local training title, had won the Firecracker twice before with Kitten's Joy in 2005 and Thorn Song in 2008.
While Michael Bruder's Guys Reward didn't own the credentials those previous stalwarts had, the dark bay horse had been on the improve and clearly relished the Churchill Downs course.
The son of Grand Reward won an allowance race at Churchill on May 31 and was coming off a triumph in the Opening Verse there on June 9.
"It's a good way to end the meet," Romans said. "This is a really good horse who is just getting good at the right time. He just seems to be maturing and improving."
Sunday's closing day — which was also the final day on the job for retiring track superintendent Butch Lehr after 30 years — featured a weather delay of about 45 minutes before the fifth race as heavy rain, wind, and lightning moved into the area.
With the turf course subsequently downgraded to yielding, the question for many in the five-horse Firecracker field was how they would handle the rain-logged course.
The answer was not good for Grade I winner and 3-to-5 race favorite Turallure as the son of Wando appeared to slide around throughout en route to a fourth-place run.
"I knew going into the first turn we were dead," said Lopresti, trainer of Turallure. "I could just tell the way he was struggling and bobbling."
Sent off at odds of 7-to-2, Guys Reward had no issue handing Lanerie — who had already clinched his first Churchill riding crown — his 71st win of the meet.
After sitting third while pacesetter Night Party clicked off an opening half in :50.12, Guys Reward made his bid three-wide on the far turn and hit the wire in 1:38.46 — the slowest time ever for the race.
"It went just as I planned, I was third going nice and easy," said Lanerie, who earned his first graded stakes win of the Spring Meet. "My horse kicked on and ran hard all the way to the wire."