Luis Carvajal, Jr., still has a hard time describing the impact Imperial Hint has had on his training operation.
“I can't really put into words how this horse makes you feel,” Carvajal said Tuesday morning outside the 5-year-old's stall on the Tampa Bay Downs backside. “He has taken me and my family and our friends to great places.
“I can't ask for any better. He won two Grade I stakes this year, which were the first for me and the owner, Mr. (Raymond) Mamone. It's a Cinderella story,” Carvajal said. “What he accomplished was amazing. Even if he had finished last in the Breeders' Cup, I would still be OK with everything he has done.”
Imperial Hint finished third in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, behind Roy H and Whitmore. A year earlier at Del Mar, Imperial Hint was second to Roy H in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Now 12-for-19 with career earnings of $1,582,655, the Florida-bred will be pointed toward a 6-year-old campaign in 2019, with his first major target the Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News on March 30 in Dubai.
Carvajal said Tuesday that the $100,000 Pelican Stakes on Feb. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs could be Imperial Hint's prep race for Dubai.
“In a couple of days, we'll take him back to the track for light training and jogging and slow gallops, just to get him moving,” Carvajal said. “We've been walking him and taking him to the round pen to let him roll a little bit, but he's already had a couple of weeks off and he gets a little anxious.”
Carvajal, who has 14 other horses stabled at Tampa Bay Downs, said that anxiety isn't quite as pronounced at Tampa Bay Downs, where Imperial Hint is 3-for-3 including two stakes victories.
“I like Tampa for him and I like it for the rest of my horses,” Carvajal said. “The track, the surface, it accommodates any horse you have here. They get hold of the track very well, they stay sound and the weather is fantastic.
“There is nothing not to like here, so the main idea would be to run him here and if he gets invited to Dubai, that (the Pelican) would be his prep race.”
Carvajal said Imperial Hint ran his race in the Sprint and offered no excuses, although both he and jockey Javier Castellano believe he doesn't care much for Churchill Downs, where he is 0-for-3. “After the race, Javier told me he definitely didn't handle it well,” Carvajal said.
It's a long time between now and the next Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, but Carvajal said he would like another crack at Roy H. That could happen in Dubai, where the 6-year-old gelding finished third last year to Mind Your Biscuits and X Y Jet.
Imperial Hint was scratched from the 2018 Dubai Golden Shaheen after developing an illness.
Carvajal said Mamone has fielded a few inquiries about standing the son of Imperialism-Royal Hint at stud, but his potential on the racetrack is too large to discount for now. Carvajal said Imperial Hint bears a strong resemblance to his great-grandsire, the late Danzig, one of the sport's most significant pedigree influences.
“The main thing is to see how he is going to perform next year,” Carvajal said. “Hopefully we will get to see Roy H over in Dubai.”
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