Raymond Mamone's pint-sized Imperial Hint showed off the size of his heart once again in Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes, winning the contest for the second straight year under jockey Javier Castellano. The 6-year-old son of Imperialism, trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr., grabbed the lead at the start but was headed by 2-1 second choice Firenze Fire at the top of the stretch. Firenze Fire got his neck in front, but in the final sixteenth the 1-5 favorite Imperial Hint battled back to get his nose down first on the wire.
“He has so much heart,” said Carvajal. “This is when you see when a horse has heart. I knew he always did. It seemed like he was comfortable, and he was going to make it look easy, but Firenze Fire came back on the outside and he got a surprise from that horse. He's small but you can see he has heart.”
Completing six furlongs over Belmont's fast main track in 1:08.35, Imperial Hint earned an expenses-paid return trip to the Breeders' Cup Sprint for a third straight year.
“It was unbelievable,” said Castellano. “You never know in this game, nothing is for sure. You have to ride your race, and this is a great horse. I loved the way he did it. He fought all the way to the end. He didn't want to get beat. I give all credit to the horse and the trainer, he did a great job. Now, we have the Breeders' Cup, and I'm looking forward to it.”
Imperial Hint blasted out of the gate on top, and pulled away to lead by about two lengths over Firenze Fire. After fractions of 22.11 and 44.65 seconds, Firenze Fire began to range up alongside Imperial Hint.
The pair were on even terms at the head of the lane, but Firenze Fire was able to pull ahead nearing the eighth pole. Castellano never worried, despite being pinned down on the rail. Imperial Hint pinned his ears and dug in gamely, just getting his nose back in front to hit the wire first. Firenze Fire had to settle for second, while Brown Buckeye finished third.
Bred in Florida by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Imperial Hint is out of the Lahint mare Royal Hint. Now a 14-time winner from 23 starts, the little horse has run third and second in the last two editions of the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Imperial Hint's career earnings stand over $2.2 million.
“We'll go back to Monmouth Park and evaluate the horse and make sure he's good,” Carvajal continued. “We'll resume training and hopefully we'll see him at Santa Anita and leave in the middle of October or something like that. You don't have to do much now after this race. This will be enough.
“It's a long trip to California but he was there before and this race fit perfectly. I don't think we'll have to do much after this. I won't worry too much about getting him a lot of works or anything like that.
“I think, besides the Classic or maybe a turf race, the Sprint will be one of the greatest races that [Breeders' Cup] Saturday. There are a lot of great elements in that race.”
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