Imperial Hint 'hasn't lost the fire' ahead of Saudi Cup day run

By Mike Henry/Tampa Bay Downs
January 13, 2020 09:09am

Forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Sprint because of a foot blister, Imperial Hint is back in training at Tampa Bay Downs for the $1.5-million Riyadh Dirt Sprint on Feb. 29 in Saudi Arabia.

That event is part of a program headlined by the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, which will be the richest horse race in history.

“He worked great (Friday, breezing three furlongs in 36 seconds), and if he keeps going the same way that’s what we’re going to do,” said trainer Luis Carvajal Jr., who would also like to make the March 28 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), a race in which Imperial Hint finished third last year.

“He feels great, he looks great and his coat is shining and dappled. He hasn’t lost the fire at all,” added Carvajal, who saddled Imperial Hint for a third in the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream Park most recently when his horse ran close to an especially hot pace. “This is the way I want to have him to the day of (the Riyadh Dirt Sprint).”

Carvajal Jr. is one of two Tampa Bay-based conditioners who aren't sweating the results of the upcoming Eclipse Awards, even though both have finalists. Along with Imperial Hint (Male Sprinter), there's the former Ignacio Correas trainee Blue Prize (Older Dirt Female).

Imperial Hint boasts a victory last year against fellow finalist Mitole in last summer’s Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga, but the injury that forced him to miss the Breeders’ Cup Sprint scuttled his chances at a title.

Mitole, who won the Sprint at Santa Anita to complete a 6-for-7 season, is expected to easily prevail in the Eclipse Award voting by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

“We beat (Mitole) on the racetrack, but he had four Grade 1 wins and we couldn’t prove our win at Saratoga was legit at the Breeders’ Cup,” Carvajal said. “But to be a finalist three years in a row is saying a lot.”

The voting should be closer in the Older Dirt Female category, with Correas represented by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Blue Prize. The mare handed Eclipse favorite Midnight Bisou her only defeat of the year in that race and also won the Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland for the second year in a row.

The Distaff was Midnight Bisou’s only defeat in eight races, and her seven consecutive graded stakes victories are expected to sway enough voters in her favor against Blue Prize and fellow finalist Elate.

“It’s not in my power to do anything about (the voting),” said Correas, who took great satisfaction in having Blue Prize, a 3-year-old champion filly in Argentina, ready for a supreme effort on Nov. 2 on international racing’s biggest stage.

“I’m thankful for the ride we had with her. You don’t get a horse of her caliber every day. Everything comes to an end, but the fact the best race of her career was her last one, there’s not a better statement.”

Blue Prize was sold three days after the Distaff by owner Merriebelle Stable for $5-million at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale to Larry Best’s OXO Equine. She will be bred to Into Mischief, last year’s leading sire.


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