Royalty exercised its authority in the lucrative turf routes at Kentucky Downs on Saturday. The 8.60-1 Imperador thwarted two-time champ Arklow in the $715,105 Turf Cup (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), and Princess Grace extended her winning streak in the $660,000 Ladies Turf (G3).
Turf Cup (G2)
Argentine Group 1 veteran Imperador worked out the right trip to earn his first U.S. win in course-record time. Trained by Paulo Lobo for Bonne Chance Farm and his breeder, Stud R D I, Imperador was reserved well off the pace in eighth. Jockey Joe Talamo saved ground much of the way from his rail post, until shifting out in preparation for the stretch drive.
In the process, Imperador essentially switched positions with 2.30-1 favorite Arklow. The two had raced in proximity, but with Arklow on the outside. When Imperador angled out for the overland route, Arklow tried to chart a path between foes in the lane. That gambit backfired when the gap disappeared, and jockey Florent Geroux had to take back and go around.
Meanwhile, the pace scenario had been evolving. Epic Bromance rattled off an opening quarter in :23.75 on the firm turf, then eased the tempo through the half in :48.60. Big Dreaming and Channel Cat moved up to contest the issue passing six furlongs in 1:13.15. Channel Cat gained a slim lead through splits of 1:36.96 and 2:01.31, but Epic Bromance and Big Dreaming were still lapped alongside. Thus they formed an impenetrable wall to block Arklow.
As Glynn County ranged up to accost the leaders entering the stretch, Imperador rallied right on his flank. The two kicked away from the rest of the pack as Arklow was stymied in traffic. Imperador had the measure of Glynn County and gradually pulled clear.
Then Arklow at last found daylight, and top gear, to go after Imperador. But the seven-year-old took a little too long to summon his final surge, falling short by a neck.
Imperador zipped 1 1/2 miles in 2:25.70, eclipsing the old mark of 2:26.98 set by General Jumbo in 2007. The Argentine was carrying six pounds more, 122 to General Jumbo’s 116.
“Hats off to the horse and to the trainer, Paulo Lobo, for the training job he did,” Talamo said. “I tried to be a good passenger the whole way around there. He settled in good, and turning for home, he had a good turn of foot.”
Talamo knew that Arklow was bearing down in the last strides.
“He’s definitely a top-class horse. He was coming pretty quick, but hats off to my horse, he did it all.”
Geroux was ruing his luck aboard Arklow:
“The horse ran great. It was just a tough beat, bad luck. I had a great trip. I was saving ground, he was traveling great. I thought I had the horses measured in front of me. I thought I had the speed turning for home, and those horses came back at us quick. I had to take a hold and come around, and it was too late. The winner went all the way around. If I split horses and get through, they’ll tell me it’s a great ride. I didn’t. I got squeezed, and it’s a bad ride. He’s a horse that always tries hard.”
Glynn County was a clear third from the closing Ajourneytofreedom. Epic Bromance wound up fifth, followed by Channel Cat, Breakpoint, Big Dreaming, Dynadrive, Artemus Eagle, Tide of the Sea, and Crossfirehurricane.
Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha, the 2019 Turf Cup hero, was an early scratch as connections announced the retirement of the eight-year-old $2.2 million-earner. Also withdrawn were Fantasioso, Bluegrass Parkway, and also-eligible Time for Trouble.
Imperador, who paid $19.20, has compiled a record of 14-4-4-0, $538,268. In his homeland in 2019, the bay posted a narrow upset in the Dos Mil Guineas (G1) and also placed a close second in the Premio Ensayo (G3) and Gran Premio Jockey Club (G1). Imperador wasn’t beaten much in fourth in that year’s prestigious Carlo Pellegrini (G1), and he came right back to add another laurel in the 2020 Miguel Alfredo Martinez de Hoz (G1). The San Isidro phase of his career ended with a sixth in the Gran Premio Latinoamericano (G1).
Although Imperador had yet to win in five stateside starts, Lobo observed that he was coming off a fine second in the July 17 United Nations (G1) at Monmouth.
“I was expecting a huge effort,” his trainer said. “He ran good at Churchill, the first time running a mile and a half here in America (when sixth in the May 15 Louisville [G3]). He ran very good in New Jersey, and he was doing very good for this race.
“I made the mistake at Churchill,” Lobo added regarding tactics. “I asked him (Talamo) to put him a little close to the pace. Then we changed a little bit in New Jersey. Today, he rode the horse perfectly.”
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey also picked up on Imperador’s profile, Lobo revealed.
“I was talking with Jerry Bailey this morning, and he saw everything that I saw and he liked the horse. He saw the race at Churchill and the race in New Jersey. And I told him, ‘man, he has been training very well and I am very confident today.’”
Bred in the name of Haras Rios Dois Irmaos, Imperador boasts a potent cross. He is by the Galileo stallion Treasure Beach and out of the Danehill mare Duchess Royale.
Imperador is Breeders’ Cup-eligible, and Lobo confirmed that he’ll take up his Turf ticket at Del Mar.
“In the Breeders’ Cup we are going to be in deeper waters, but this horse I think is peaking at the right time. I think he is going to enjoy Del Mar. South American horses also like Del Mar. Let’s see. Let’s see. Let’s hope for the best.”
Ladies Turf (G3)
A tardy start wasn’t enough to derail Geroux and 11-10 favorite Princess Grace, who went last to first in the Ladies Turf.
Under patient handling, the Michael Stidham filly regrouped while Sara Sea led the way. After an opening quarter in :23.02, Princess Causeway advanced to press Sara Sea by the half in :46.66, and Shifty She joined the fray approaching the six-furlong mark in 1:10.79.
By that point, Princess Grace was making headway along the fence. The daughter of Karakontie employed the rapier-like inside move that’s become her trademark, after similar maneuvers in the July 6 Dr. James Penny Memorial (G3) at Parx and Aug. 7 Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mar. Splitting rivals and accelerating to the front in the stretch, Princess Grace preserved a half-length margin while completing the mile in 1:34.25.
Dalika closed on the outside and Abscond pursued Princess Grace’s inside path, but neither could gain enough on the winner who’d beaten them to the punch. The two crossed the wire in tandem, with Dalika nipping Abscond for second.
“We didn’t quite get over,” Dalika’s trainer, Al Stall, said. “We knew the rail is a little better place to be. But outside draw (post 9 in a nine-horse field), there was always a horse on our left. But she ran as hard as she could for as long as she could. Just couldn’t get there. The inside split for the winner – that’s the difference.”
Shifty She, Princess Causeway, She’sonthewarpath, Summer in Saratoga, Sara Sea, and Querelle concluded the order of finish.
Princess Grace has won four in a row, all graded stakes, beginning with the off-the-turf Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs last fall. John and Susan Moore’s homebred didn’t make it to the races until late summer of 2020, but she’s ascended rapidly. The dark bay romped in her career debut at Colonial Downs, and cleared her first-level allowance condition at Monmouth, before stepping up to graded company in Keeneland’s Valley View (G3). Perhaps inexperience caught her out as she was mugged late in her only loss. Her resume now reads 7-6-1-0, and she doubled her bankroll to $886,860.
The Kentucky-bred was produced by the multiple stakes-placed Silent Name mare Masquerade, thereby giving her 3×3 inbreeding to Sunday Silence.