HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stables’ Imperative, making the first start for his new connections, came at favored Stanford with a relentless stretch drive and got his head down at the wire to win the $400,000 Poseidon Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The inaugural running of the Poseidon for 4-year-olds and up was the second of six supporting stakes, three graded, worth $1.15 million in purses on the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) program. Also run at 1 1/8 miles, the Poseidon was created as a companion race for the Pegasus.
Co-owner Ron Paolucci purchased Imperative privately following his 6-year-old season with designs on running in the Pegasus, but was unable to work out a deal with any of the 12 stakeholders for the world’s richest race. Paolucci is partners with Dan Shafer in Pegasus starter War Story.
“I needed a horse. I needed a backup for War Story. Me and Dan talked about needing a second horse,” Paolucci said. “I tried to get him into the big race and I didn’t have any takers. The way he trained over this track, we knew he was going to run good. To beat Stanford he had to run really good, and he did.”
It was the 36th career start and just the fifth outside of California for Imperative ($16.40), a 7-year-old Bernardini gelding that came in with more than $2 million in career earnings but won just one of his previous 20 starts – the Big Bear Stakes in November at Santa Anita – dating back to a victory in the 2014 Charles Town Classic (G2).
The winning time was 1:48.97 over a fast main track.
“Ron gave me a call about 2 ½ weeks ago and said, ‘Do you have an empty stall?’ So, he bought the horse,” winning trainer Bob Hess Jr. said. “[Former trainer] Richard Baltas was very forthright and told us about his quirks. We brought him out here and he worked really well. I think he likes a little sandier track surface.
“I’m speechless,” he added. “It’s great to compete on the biggest day in racing, and to be able to compete against and beat Todd Pletcher is fun an exciting. [Imperative] kind of runs with his head up a little so I thought we might have lost the head bob, but luckily he dropped in time. No complaints.”
Jockey Antonio Gallardo settled Imperative ahead of the second flight of horses saving ground in fourth along the rail as 80-1 long shot Ranger in Paradise broke intent on the lead and was in front through an opening quarter-mile in 23.83 seconds and a half in 48.10.
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s multiple graded stakes winner Stanford, the 3-5 favorite in a field of nine, raced right behind the pacesetter in second with Hy Riverside to the outside. Gallardo swung Imperative four wide leaving the backstretch to launch their bid as Stanford budged his way to the front after six furlongs in 1:12.29.
The two horses separated from the field as they hooked up after straightening for home. Stanford stubbornly held the advantage into deep stretch but Gallardo coaxed a final surge from Imperative on his outside down the middle of the track to hit the wire front.
“I talked to Mr. Hess and he told me how to do it,” Gallardo said. “He said he had been working really good. When I was riding down the back I could have gone in and decided to stay out, and he took the bend really well. I was really confident in him. I’m hungry, and he was hungry.”
Stanford, one of three also-eligibles for the Pegasus, was making his first start since a front-running victory in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) Dec. 17 at Gulfstream. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez said the 5-year-old’s finish may have been affected near the finish.
“He propped on me with all the people at the wire,” he said.
It was 4 ½ lengths back to Stanford’s stablemate Madefromlucky, another Pegasus alternate who edged 70-1 long shot Papa Zulu by a neck for third. Hy Riverside, Cherry Wine, Mylute, Ranger in Paradise and Fearless Dragon completed the order of finish.
“It kind of looked like the horse that was on the lead was sort of out in the middle of the track, so [Velazquez] opted to go inside of him,” Pletcher said of Stanford. “He ran well. He lost to a nice horse, who has made over $2 million. He’s a nice horse. Tough bob.”
Source: Gulfstream Park