ELMONT, N.Y. – Last year, trainer Luis Carvajal took the path of least resistance to get Imperial Hint to the Breeders’ Cup. Carvajal never ran him in anything tougher than a Grade 3 stakes before sending him out against the division’s best in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
It nearly paid off. Imperial Hint cruised through his first four races of 2017 and ran a terrific second to Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar.
This year, Carvajal has opted to take a different route to get Imperial Hint back to the Breeders’ Cup. Imperial Hint has competed in two Grade 2’s and the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt. Imperial Hint won the Grade 2 True North and was nothing short of spectacular winning the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga for his and Carvajal’s first Grade 1 triumph.
Imperial Hint will seek a second Grade 1 success on Saturday when he figures to be an overwhelming favorite in the $350,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park. The Vosburgh, which will not offer show wagering, offers a fees-paid berth into the Sprint, to be run Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
“Last year, I ducked away from all the big races, tried to take care of him, wanted to save him for the Breeders’ Cup,” Carvajal said this week. “I didn’t run against anybody tough.”
As fate would have it, this renewal of the Vosburgh may have come up as Imperial Hint’s easiest race of the season. His six rivals have combined to win one stakes – the Dowd Mile at Fonner Park.
“For his résumé it looks better for him to win another Grade 1,” Carvajal said. “They always call this a prep race, right? But if you get in a really tough race, it can actually take something out of the horse and then you have 4 1/2 weeks to get ready for the next one. It would work perfect if it comes up an easy race.”
Imperial Hint made the Vanderbilt look easy. He sat fourth early behind Switzerland, was guided to the outside turning for home, and just galloped to a 3 3/4-length victory while running six furlongs in 1:08.98. Switzerland, who finished fifth in the Vanderbilt, came back to win last Saturday’s De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel.
“Every time I look at that race again it gives me goosebumps,” Carvajal said of the Vanderbilt. “It was a great performance. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can do it again. The way he looks right now he’s 100 percent happy, healthy looking, great. It wouldn’t be surprising if he does it again.”
In the Vanderbilt, Imperial Hint was conceding weight. On Saturday, all seven runners will carry 124 pounds.
If there is a surprise to be had, perhaps Mr. Crow has the best chance. He ran some monster races early in his career last year, but is winless in his last four starts.
Completing the field are Sightforsoreeyes, who won the Dowd Mile in April 2017, Silver Ride, Still Krz, Forge, and Maniacal.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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