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- Trainer: Luis Carvajal, Jr.
- Likely Jockey: J. J. Castellano
- Owner: Raymond Mamone
- Age & Breeding: 5yo h; Imperialism—Royal Hint (Lahint)
- Season Form Figures: 16111
- Career Highlight: Back-to-back Grade 1 victories this season
By Peter Fornatale
This year’s renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is fascinating because it gives us another classic east coast versus west coast battle and a rematch of the 1-2 finishers from last year as well.
It wasn’t easy to choose which horse to make the focus of this profile, especially given that Roy H is a defending champion heading into the test in identical form to last year. But a few factors, not the least of which is the change in venue, caused this analyst to give the nod to Imperial Hint.
In the past I’ve sworn off the hyped east coast-based sprinters when travelling to California to compete in the Breeders’ Cups. It just feels like so many of the ones I’ve fancied on paper over the years. Technically that was also true with Imperial Hint himself last season at Del Mar. But Imperial Hint was a square price at Del Mar and did everything but win the race, just finding Roy H too tough on the day.
Now we move east to Churchill Downs. Roy H has shipped and won before, but the move east might just favor Imperial Hint. That last comment might puzzle some observers who’ll notice that in two runs under the Twin Spires, Imperial Hint has finished 12th beaten 16 lengths and sixth beaten more than four. But there were mitigating circumstances on both days.
The first race came back when he was three in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard. He was against the grain of a track bias that day and the distance was too far. Earlier this year, on the Derby undercard once again, he ran in the slop at seven furlongs. He set a fast pace and weakened through the lane, once again looking like the distance (especially the combination of distance and surface) simply didn’t suit him. I like his chances to bounce back at six furlongs and he’s raced just fine in off going on other occasions should those circumstances arise.
His efforts since that disappointment back in May have been strong. A gutsy win in the True North at Belmont, followed by imperious scores at odds-on in both the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga and the Vosburgh at Belmont. It’s true that figure dropped off last time but he was under a serious hold, with jockey Castellano presumably trying to save something for this race. Still, his finishing times in general leave a little something to be desired given that he’ll be a heavy favorite.
It's a tricky race, and the quality runs deep beneath the top two with horses like Promises Fulfilled, Whitmore and Churchill horse-for-course extraordinaire Limousine Liberal expected to take their place in the lineup.
Current odds have Imperial Hint hovering around 2-1 and Roy H at 5-2. Both can win easily and either would be a good story, but neither are particularly appealing bets at the odds, given all that can go wrong in a race run as fast and furious as the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, especially given the depth of this year’s opposition.