Imperial Hint brings Carvajal back to South Florida for Smile Sprint
June 30, 2017 07:46am
Imperial Hint_General George 2017_615x400
Photo: Maryland Jockey Club

Working nine years as an assistant for late trainer Bob Durso afforded Luis Carvajal Jr. the opportunity to be around good horses and learn from a great horseman.

Now 44, Carvajal is applying those lessons to a pretty good horse of his own, Grade 3 winner Imperial Hint, who brings his trainer back to Gulfstream Park for the $250,000 Smile Sprint (G3) on Saturday’s Summit of Speed program with seven stakes worth $1 million in purses. The Smile is a “Win & You’re In” Breeders Cup event.
The son of one of Chile’s leading jockeys, Carvajal first came to the United States in 1988 and worked for trainer Angel Penna Jr. before joining Durso. He took over the stable’s day-to-day operations when the trainer fell ill in May 2006; Durso died in January 2007 at the age of 68.
Carvajal enjoyed spending those winters at Gulfstream, particularly when the barn had Frisk Me Now, owned by Durso’s wife, Carol Dender. Frisk Me Now won eight graded stakes for Durso between 1997 and 1999, including the 1997 Hutcheson (G2) at odds of 105-1 and the 1999 Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Sprint Championship Handicap (G2). He also ran third in the 1997 Florida Derby (G1).
“I always liked being at Gulfstream. We used to go every winter from Monmouth Park to Gulfstream. It’s a beautiful place to be, definitely,” Carvajal said. “It’s great. It’s really good racing and a lot of big-time guys.”
Carvajal, who operates a modest eight-horse stable based at Parx, has many fond memories of Gulfstream, none more so than one of the biggest win payoffs in track history. Running Super Star, a 3-year-old gelding owned by PTJ Stable, broke his maiden at odds of 154-1 on March 12, 2007 – returning $310.80. The horse that ran second, Bullet Proof Man, was trained by Tim Ritvo, now President of Gulfstream Park and Chief Operating Officer of The Stronach Group.
“I remember Junior Alvarado rode the horse, he was an apprentice at that time. It was my first win for an owner friend of mine, Anthony Perry,” Carvajal said. “I liked the horse and I called my owner in New Jersey and I said, ‘Mr. Perry, I think we have a good shot to win this race.’ He laughed at me and said, ‘Luis, he is not that good a horse.’ He called me after he won and he still couldn’t believe it.”
Imperial Hint enters the six-furlong Smile Sprint not having raced since the seven-furlong General George Feb. 18, the first graded-stakes victory for both Carvajal and owner Raymond Mamone. The 4-year-old colt traveled to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen but was forced to scratch after developing pneumonia following his arrival.
Carvajal spent a month in Dubai until Imperial Hint was well enough to travel, and they arrived back in the U.S. about a week apart in late April.
“We were going from here where it was 10 degrees to Dubai which was close to 100 degrees. That was my main concern over everything else,” Carvajal said. “Things happen. It could have happened to somebody else. I was looking forward to running that race. I know I had a good shot, but the horse’s health is most important. I could have pushed it and run but we decided not to do that. We want to get him 100 percent every time before he runs.
“The trip was good and bad,” he added. “My horse was getting better and I got to see some good racing and see some great horses run. I got to see some of the jockeys I know over there and meet some nice people. It was a great experience, just a little bittersweet. It was good to be there; I’d never been. At the same time it was unfortunate we couldn’t run. The main thing is the horse is good and came back great. I’m looking forward to seeing him run.”
Imperial Hint will break from Post 2 in a field of eight that includes defending champion Delta Bluesman and multiple graded-stakes winner Awesome Banner. Hall of Fame-elect jockey Javier Castellano has the mount.

Source: Gulfstream Park


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