Imperial Hint on Saturday became the fifth horse in history to successfully defend his title in the $282,000 Vosburgh (G1), but it wasn’t easy.
The 1-5 favorite sprinted out to a 1 1/2-length lead through the opening half-mile, but was collared by second choice Firenze Fire in upper stretch and the two battled all the way to wire. Firenze Fire poked his head in front with a furlong to go, but Imperial Hint gamely came back on the inside in the final yards to win by a nose under Javier Castellano.
Owned by Raymond Mamone and trained by Luis Carvajal Jr., Imperial Hint paid $2.50 after completing six furlongs over the fast Belmont Park main track in 1:08.35. Brown Buckeye finished nearly 10 lengths behind Firenze Fire in third, with American Power completing the order of finish.
“He has so much heart,” Carvajal said. “This is when you see when a horse has heart. I knew he always did. It seemed like he was comfortable, and he was going to make it look easy, but Firenze Fire came back on the outside and he got a surprise from that horse. He’s small but you can see he has heart.”
In winning the Vosburgh a second time, Imperial Hint joined Joe Schenck (1940-41), Dr. Fager (1967-68), Sewickley (1989-90), and Private Zone (2013-14) as the only dual winners of the race.
The Vosburgh served as “Win & You’re In” Challenge prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita on November 2. History has not been on the side of Vosburgh winners in the Sprint with only Artax pulling off the double in 1999. Imperial Hint himself was only third in last year’s edition at Churchill Downs.
The six-year-old’s resume is stellar otherwise. In addition to the two Vosburghs, Imperial Hint has also won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) the past two years plus a trio of other graded stakes triumphs. The July 27 Vanderbilt was achieved with ease over a field that included division pro tem leader Mitole, who he’s expected to face again at Santa Anita to decide Eclipse Award honors for male sprint champion.
“We’ll go back to Monmouth Park and evaluate the horse and make sure he’s good,” Carvajal said. “We’ll resume training and hopefully we’ll see him at Santa Anita and leave in the middle of October or something like that. You don’t have to do much now after this race. This will be enough.
“It’s a long trip to California but he was there before and this race fit perfectly. I don’t think we’ll have to do much after this. I won’t worry too much about getting him a lot of works or anything like that.
“I think, besides the Classic or maybe a turf race, the Sprint will be one of the greatest races that Saturday. There are a lot of great elements in that race.”
Bred in Florida by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Imperial Hint is by Imperialism and out of Royal Hint, by Lahint. His record now stands at 23-14-2-3, $2,199,155.