ELMONT, NY – Raymond Mamone’s Imperial Hint was all heart in the stretch, re-rallying along the rail after getting passed to squeeze out the score over Firenze Fire in Saturday’s $300,000 Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.

The Vosburgh is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Imperial Hint receiving an automatic berth in the Sprint at Santa Anita Park this November.

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Breaking from post 4 under Javier Castellano as the 1/5 favorite, the defending champion immediately went to the front, but Firenze Fire closely tracked him from the outside. Together, the pair separated from the other two runners while posting fractions of :22.11 and :44.65.

Off the far turn, Firenze Fire made his bid while Castellano remained chilly. The bettors’ choice soon looked like he was in trouble because his sharp foe began to edge past him. Imperial Hint, however, battled back gamely along the rail in deep stretch.

Racing head and head to the wire, the pair crossed nearly in sync, but Imperial Hint’s nose won the head-bob. Known as “The Little Rocket” due to his dimunitive size and early speed, Imperial Hint completed the 6-furlong sprint over the fast main track in a final time of 1:08.35.

“It was unbelievable,” Castellano said. “You never know in this game, nothing is for sure. You have to ride your race, and this is a great horse. I loved the way he did it. He fought all the way to the end. He didn’t want to get beat. I give all credit to the horse and trainer, he did a great job. Now we have the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Brown Buckeye, making his first start against graded foes after winning an Ohio-bred stakes at Thistledown, outkicked American Power for third to complete the order of finish. Call Paul and Promises Fulfilled both scratched in favor of racing elsewhere.

Imperial Hint’s win was his second straight following a record-breaking title defense in the Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga. The 6-year-old son of Imperialism improved his overall record to 23-14-2-3 with $2,199,155 earned. His upcoming Breeders’ Cup Sprint attempt will be his third straight, having finished third last year and second in 2017 for trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr.

“We’ll go back to Monmouth Park and evaluate the horse and make sure he’s good,” said Carvajal, Jr. “We’ll resume training, and hopefully, we’ll see him at Santa Anita and leave in the middle of October or something like that. You don’t have to do much now after this race. This will be enough.”

Imperial Hint returned $2.50 to win and $2.10 to place, while Firenze Fire paid $2.10 to place. There was no show betting.