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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Raymond Mamone’s Imperial Hint, coming off of an illness that cost him a start in Dubai and left him unraced since mid-February, made a triumphant return to competition with a dominating victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream Park.
The 6-furlong Smile Sprint was the last of seven stakes, three graded, worth $1 million on a spectacular 14-race Summit of Speed program. As a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, Imperial Hint earned an all-fees-paid trip to the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar in November.
Imperial Hint, sent off as the 3-5 favorite in a field of eight that included defending champion Delta Bluesman and multiple graded stakes winner Awesome Banner, completed the distance in 1:09.23 over a fast main track to win by 4 3/4 lengths.
“It was awesome,” said trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. “I knew he was doing really good and I wanted to see him win like this. He’d been training super. I was very confident coming into this race.”
It was the fourth consecutive victory and second straight in a graded stakes for Imperial Hint, a 4-year-old son of Imperialism that captured the 7-furlong Grade 3 General George on February 18 at Laurel Park in his most recent start. The win earned him a trip to Dubai for the Grade 1, $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 26, but he developed pneumonia shortly after arriving and was unable to start.
“It was very disappointing not being able to compete over there (Dubai), but at the same time, it was a good experience,” said Carvajal, Jr. “It might have helped him out in the end to give him time to refresh.”
The normally front-running Imperial Hint found himself behind horses under Hall of Fame-elect jockey Javier Castellano as Awesome Banner was sent to the lead by Edgard Zayas. Awesome Banner set fractions of :22.31 seconds and :44.96 before drifting off the rail enough rounding the far turn to leave space for Imperial Hint, who slipped through the opening and powered down the stretch.
“Luis and I spoke before and handicapped the race, and we thought (Awesome Banner and Delta Bluesman) would go to the lead,” said Castellano. “The outside horses put a good pace in the race, and for my horse, it worked out perfectly. I got a little concerned when I asked my horse; he was right at the heels of the horse in front, and it took me a little while to settle in, we weren’t in the best path. But finally, we switched off the bridle and went through on the rail nice and easy in the tiniest path. I loved the way he finished. He’s a nice horse, I think he’s going to improve a lot.”
Awesome Banner ran well to be second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of 99-1 long shot Very Very Stella. It was another length back to Delta Bluesman in fourth. Quijote, Express Jet, Royal Squeeze, and Coronado Again completed the order of finish.
Imperial Hint returned $3.20, $2.40, and $2.20. Awesome Banner brought back $3.60 and $3, while Very Very Stella paid $11.80 to show.
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Gulfstream Park set a record on Summit of Speed Day with total handle Saturday of $12,660,617.
Saturday’s handle eclipsed the previous handle of $9,702 million by 30 percent and the 2015 handle of $8,071 by 50 percent.
The 14-race card featured victories by Curlin’s Approval in the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Grade 2 Princess Rooney and Imperial Hint in the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Grade 3 Smile Sprint. Jockey Luis Saez flew in from New York to win three races, including the Princess Rooney and Azalea aboard Who’s the Lady, while Javier Castellano won aboard Imperial Hint. Jockey Edgard Zayas won three races, including two stakes.
In its last year at Calder in 2013, total handle on the Summit of Speed program was $4.678 million. After Calder did not run the Summit in 2014, Gulfstream focused on rejuvenating summer racing and the Summit of Speed.
“We want to thank the fans throughout the country for making Saturday’s Summit of Speed a success,” said P.J. Campo, Vice President of Racing for The Stronach Group and General Manager of Gulfstream Park. “Horsemen continue to support our summer program with great racing. We witnessed some incredible performances today by our equine and human athletes.
“We will continue to build summer racing in Florida and we’re excited about the rest of our holiday weekend culminating with our free Grand Illumination fireworks show.”
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