Showing no signs of rust returning from a layoff of more than four months, Imperial Hint justified 3-5 favoritism and earned a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar in November with a dominating win in the $250,000 Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
One of two “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races on the “Summit of Speed” card, the Smile Sprint attracted a field of eight, but it was all Imperial Hint, who cut the corner at the top of the stretch, overtook front runner Awesome Banner and powered to a 4 3/4-length win under Javier Castellano.
Owned by Raymond Mamone and trained by Luis Carvajal Jr., Imperial Hint returned $3.20 after completing six furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.23. Awesome Banner held second by 2 3/4 lengths over 134-1 outsider Very Very Stella.
“It was awesome. I knew he was doing really good, and I wanted to see him win like this. He’d been training super. I was very confident coming into this race,” Carvajal said.
Last seen taking the the General George (G3) at Laurel in mid-February, Imperial Hint shipped to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen (G1) but was forced to forfeit a chance to compete on World Cup night after contracting pneumonia.
“It was very disappointing not being able to compete over there [Dubai], but at the same time it was a good experience. It might have helped him out in the end to give him time to refresh,” Carvajal said.
“We don’t have plans. It could be Saratoga, but we’ll go back to the barn and see how he came back and make plans from there.”
Now a four-time stakes winner, Imperial Hint has now earned $500,155 from a line of 11-7-1-0. Bred in Florida by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, he is by Imperialism and out of the Lahint mare Royal Hint.
Curlin’s Approval got back to her best form in the $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
Under Luis Saez, the 9-2 chance tracked in second behind Kinsley Kisses through fractions from :22.71 and :45.34, pulled away from that rival in upper stretch and drove home a comfortable 4 1/2-length winner in a time of 1:21.68 for seven furlongs. Distinia finished second, a half-length ahead of 3-2 favorite Lightstream.
Owned by Happy Alter and Bridlewood Farm, and trained by Marty Wolfson, Curlin’s Approval paid $11.
This was the sixth career win in 11 starts for Curlin’s Approval, all of which have come at Gulfstream. Four have now come in stakes, including back-to-back victories earlier this year in the Hurricane Bertie (G3) and Royal Delta (G2). She was unplaced in her last two starts as an odds-on favorite in the Inside Information (G2) and Matron (G3) at Churchill Downs. She’s now earned $460,015.
Bred in Kentucky by Alter, Curlin’s Approval is by Curlin and out of the With Approval mare Withmom’sapproval.
In the $150,000 Carry Back (G3), the only other graded stakes on the “Summit of Speed” program, Three Rules wore down long-time leader Mo Cash in the final strides to land the seven-furlong dash for three-year-olds by a neck.
The even-money favorite in a field of 11, Three Rules paid $4 after completing the distance in 1:22.63 under Cornelio Velasquez.
“He broke good and there was a lot of speed in the race and I didn’t want to go to the lead,” Velasquez said. “I wanted to stay behind the speed. He had to go between horses, and he ran very good today. I followed the hole and waited to the quarter pole to ask him and he was running to the end.
Owned and co-bred by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds and trained by Jose Pinchin, Three Rules was registering his first win since sweeping the three-race Florida Sire Stakes series for two-year-olds last season, which culminated a five-race win streak to start his career. He was subsequently placed in three of five outings, including the Swale (G2), Fountain of Youth (G2), and $200,000 Chick Lang on the Preakness (G1) undercard. His record now stands at 11-6-1-2, $914,160.
Pay Any Price won as the 3-10 favorite in the $75,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint. Following the 3 1/4-length score, trainer Ralph Ziadie is now thinking Breeders’ Cup for the seven-year-old.
“We’re thinking about the Breeders’ Cup at the end of the year and how to get there,” he said. “We might have to ship out of town to earn points. The Breeders’ Cup [Turf] Sprint (G1) is five furlongs this year and next, so we have a two-year window if we’re going to do it.”
In other stakes action, Diamond Oops prevailed by 3 1/4 lengths as an odds-on favorite in the $100,000 Kiss a Native for two-year-olds, while Rose to Fame posted a 7-1 upset by a neck in the $100,000 Brave Raj for two-year-old fillies. In the $75,000 Azalea for three-year-old fillies, Who’s the Lady snuck up the inside to post a 7-1 victory by a neck from outsider Lirica.