Imperial Hint wins Vosburgh with plenty in reserve
Courtesy of David Grening of DRF.com
ELMONT, N.Y. – Imperial Hint took care of business and padded his résumé with another Grade 1 victory Saturday at Belmont Park, cruising to a 1 1/4-length victory in the $350,000 Vosburgh Stakes as the 1-5 favorite.
The win was his second straight Grade 1 success adding to the 3 3/4-length victory he accomplished in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga in July. Prior to that, he won the Grade 2 True North at Belmont in June.
Perhaps more importantly, the connections of Imperial Hint get a fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3 where Imperial Hint could very well go off favored. He finished second in last year’s Sprint, his only loss in five starts in 2017.
“I’d be happy if I get to go to the Breeders’ Cup again but then we’re going to face all the big shots,” trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. said. “If he runs good, it’s a good thing. If he wins, amazing, it’d be wonderful. This race was more pressure than the one in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Carvajal said he felt the pressure Saturday because Imperial Hint was an overwhelming favorite against six overmatched opponents.
Both Carvajal and jockey Javier Castellano thought Still Krz, drawn to Imperial Hint’s outside, might show speed, but that horse lunged at the start and got away slow.
Castellano, understanding he was on the best horse in the race, put Imperial Hint on the lead and he ran an opening quarter in 22.09 seconds to make the front.
With minimal urging, Imperial Hint opened up a two-length lead after an opening half-mile in 44.37 seconds.
The only time Castellano asked for anything was between the three-sixteenths and eighth pole when he opened up a 3 1/2-length margin. From there, Castellano took Imperial Hint in hand, and the fact that Mr. Crow closed to within 1 1/4 lengths at the finish belies how dominant Imperial Hint was in the Vosburgh.
Mr. Crow finished second by 3 3/4 lengths over Silver Ride. Sightforsoreeyes, Still Krz, Maniacal, and Forge completed the order of finish.
Imperial Hint, a 5-year-old son of Imperialism, covered the six furlongs in 1:08.27 and returned $2.40 to win.
“I said let me dictate the pace here, I got the best horse in the race, let him go,” Castellano said. “I don’t want overdo it because we have to come back in [five] weeks. It’s one day at a time. You have to win today to move forward. Basically, we were looking at today as a workout for him.”
Carvajal, who trains Imperial Hint for Raymond Mamone, said he was happy to get in an easy race for the horse before the Breeders’ Cup.
“You don’t want to go and run a really tough race right before the Breeders’ Cup, you need to have a little bit of horse left for November,” he said.
While Imperial Hint will head to Kentucky as one of the favorites for the Sprint, he will be trying to become the first Vosburgh winner since Artax in 1999 to come back and win the Sprint. Speightstown, third in the 2004 Vosburgh, is the last horse to come out of this race and win the Sprint.
Imperial Hint, who improved his record to 12 for 18, is winless in two starts at Churchill. He finished 12th of 14 in the 2016 Pat Day Mile and finished sixth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs in May. Those races, Carvajal noted, were at a mile and seven furlongs, respectively.
“Six furlongs is his game,” Carvajal said.
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