by Teresa Genaro
If New York State’s tourism bureau is looking for an illustration for its “I Love New York” campaign, they want to check to see if Imperial Hint is available.
The six-year-old won his second straight Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Saratoga, his first win since taking the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park last September. Imperial Hint also won the True North (G2) at Belmont in June 2018.
But not even his impressive résumé could have prepared spectators for his performance in the Vanderbilt on Saturday.
As expected, Strike Power and Mitole went to the lead, flying through fractions of :21.77 and :44.21 Imperial Hint sat a length off the leaders, keeping them well within reach, and then in his wake as he effortlessly cruised past them, running three-wide into the stretch of the six-furlong race.
With Javier Castellano virtually motionless, the dark bay opened up at will. Castellano showed him the stick, then sat back and enjoyed the ride as Imperial Hint broke Speightown’s track record for the distance, winning in 1:07.92 by four lengths.
“I knew they were going pretty quick early in the first part of the race,” Castellano said. “I had a perfect position in the race tracking them. Turning for home, the way he did it was very impressive. He wanted to go. He was feeling good and gave me everything he had today.”
“When I looked at the times,” said trainer Luis Carvajal Jr., “my hairs stood up. Last year, he gave me my first Grade 1, and this year he breaks the track record. It’s an amazing feeling, especially with (my) family here.”
Carvajal has scored all six of his career graded wins with Imperial Hint.
An appreciative clubhouse crowd applauded as Imperial Hint passed them on the way to winner’s circle, with some admirers offering a standing ovation.
Diamond Oops finished four lengths behind in second, with odds-on favorite Mitole 3 1/2 lengths farther back in third.
With his share of the Vanderbilt purse, Imperial Hint has hit the $2 million mark in earnings, off a record of 22-13-2-3. Though he is winless in two starts this year – he was third in both the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) – he paid a generous $13.60 to win.
Bred in Florida by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Imperial Hint is owned by Raymond Mamone, who wasn’t present to see his horse break the track record. By the multiple Grade 2 winner Imperialism, Imperial Hint is out of the Lahint mare Royal Hint.
Mamone also owned Royal Hint, but gave her away when she hadn’t produced much for him. The next foal she had was Imperial Hint.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Carvajal said. “I couldn’t believe what was going on around the turn, but he’s a really good horse. He has a lot of heart. He doesn’t have a big body, but he has a lot of heart.”
“He’s a little horse with a big heart,” Castellano concurred. “He’s not a huge horse, but he has a lot of talent.”