A day after Raymond Mamone's Imperial Hint battled back in the stretch to edge Firenze Fire by a nose in the Grade 1, $300,000 Vosburgh, winning trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. said the color finally returned to his face.
“My friend [and fellow trainer] Arnaud Delacour texted me to congratulate me and said, 'Why do you look so pale in the [winner's circle] picture?'” Carvajal said with a laugh.
Imperial Hint came out of his second straight Grade 1 win even better, building on his four-length win in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
“He came back last night; we waited a couple of hours to give him dinner, and he went right into the feed tub,” Carvajal said. “This morning, his feed tub was clean, and he looks happy. We went over him and everything looks perfectly fine and I couldn't be happier with how he came back from the race.”
Imperial Hint earned an all-fees paid entry to the six-furlong Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 2 at Santa Anita Park, where he will look to solidify his status as the nation's top sprinter after winning his last two races at that distance following his third-place finish in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March at Meydan Racecourse.
In his bid to repeat as the Vosburgh winner, Imperial Hint, under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, led the four-horse field through the opening quarter and half miles before the Jason Servis-trained Firenze Fire briefly took the edge in the stretch. Battling eye-to-eye, Imperial Hint, the 1-5 favorite, got up in the final jumps to win the bob, becoming the first repeat winner since Private Zone in 2013-14.
“It's a four-horse field but I always have a lot of respect for Jason's horse because I think he loves the track,” Carvajal said. “You have to run the races. My horse looked like he was a little too confident and got surprised. But he's a racehorse and has a lot of heart. The way he did it, it's impressive. To see the crowd giving a standing ovation to him, it was great.”
Last year, Imperial Hint took the same route to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, winning the Vosburgh before finishing third in the Sprint at Churchill Downs. Carvajal said a competitive race leading into this year's edition in California could be a useful springboard to stay sharp.
“Last year, he won it easy and was geared down towards the end, and sometimes that doesn't help the horse,” he said. “After seeing him run yesterday and fight back, I think this race really was good for him. It should get him ready for the Breeders' Cup.”
Carvajal said Imperial Hint seemed to dislike the Churchill track last year but is hopeful he fares better at Santa Anita, where he will be racing for the first time. The 6-year-old son of Imperialism has won at six different tracks: Tampa Bay Downs, Parx, Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park, Belmont and Saratoga. He also ran second in the 2017 Sprint the last time the Breeders' Cup was held in California, where he finished a length behind Roy H that day at Del Mar.
“This horse, he's never been one that had to take his track with him to run good,” he said. “He's won a lot of places. When he ran at Del Mar, he ran a super race and got beat by a really good horse and finished second. I have a good feeling he's going to run really good at Santa Anita, and off this race, I don't think the [Breeders' Cup] could come at a better time.”
This year's edition of the Sprint could feature a slew of talented runners to compete against Imperial Hint, including Roy H, Mitole, Shancelot and Promises Fulfilled.
“It's going to be a great race and I think it'll be one of the best races there,” Carvajal said. “I'm looking forward to that race and he defiantly deserves a chance to get in there and the recognition. Seeing the reaction of the fans to him at Saratoga and Belmont, and the standing ovation yesterday, they know what kind of horse he is.”
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