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ELMONT, NY – Raymond Mamone’s Imperial Hint rated well early before marching to the lead in the stretch and holding on late to win Friday’s Grade 2, $250,000 True North Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking well from post 3 under Javier Castellano as the 8-5 favorite, Imperial Hint rated 2-3 lengths off the lead along the rail while Recruiting Ready posted initial splits of :21.85 and :44.52. Bobby Abu Dhabi overtook the leader just after completing the first 4 furlongs, but he wasn’t able to hold the lead for long, as Imperial Hint collared him shortly after straightening for home. Imperial Hint stuck his nose ahead by the 1/8 pole and inched away from Bobby Abu Dhabi, then held off a late rally from Whitmore in the final stages to win by a neck in a final time of 1:15.02 for the 6 1/2-furlong sprint over the main track.
“It worked out perfect,” Castellano said. “The two horses went to the lead and there were very fast fractions. It worked out great, it was a perfect trip. That’s what I was looking for today. Usually, I feel like this horse is always on the lead, and the last 1/16 (of a mile), he’s always – eh, but today, it worked out great. I asked him and he broke again. He’s a nice horse.”
Bobby Abu Dhabi wasn’t able to keep tabs with the top two in last 1/16 of a mile and faded to finish third, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner but still 7 3/4 lengths ahead of Always Sunshine in fourth. Recruiting Ready faded to finish fifth, ahead of only Westwood, who was eased after suffering an injury. Joking and Limousine Liberal (cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Met Mile) were both scratched.
Regarding his injury, Westwood was forwardly placed early but jockey John Velazquez pulled him up after he took a bad step and beared outward nearing the far turn. Some feared the worst after the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee had to be vanned off in the equine ambulance, but Jeremy Balan of Blood Horse later reported that the gelding had survived the scare.
“He broke his hoof,” McLaughlin told Balan. “He’s going to be OK, which is the important thing, but it’s going to take some time.”
Imperial Hint’s win was improved his career record to 16-10-2-0 and pushed him into millionaire status with a career bankroll now of $1,017,655. The 5-year-old son of Imperialism was attempting to bounce back after not taking to the off-track last month in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes.
“I feel relieved,” said winning trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. “Before I went to Kentucky, I had a good feeling about it, but when it started raining, Churchill Downs is a really different kind of track, I got a little bit scared, but he always trains good, he always tries. He’s a small horse, but he has a big heart.”
Imperial Hint returned $5.40 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.60 to show. Whitmore brought back $3.20 to place and $2.40 to show, while Bobby Abu Dhabi paid $2.60 to show.
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