SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Raymond Mamone’s Imperial Hint could not have made a more impressive return to American racing on Saturday when he put forth a track record-breaking performance to win the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga.
Breaking from post 3 under Javier Castellano at 5/1 odds, Imperial Hint remained running three-wide early while the 1/2 favorite Mitole and Strike Power, who broke from posts 1 and 2, contested for the early lead. The front-running pair posted quick opening fractions of :21.77 and :44.21 while Imperial Hint tracked them closely from third.
Midway through the far turn, Imperial Hint began advancing effortlessly along the outside of the top pair, and by the time he hit the top of the stretch, he was alone on the lead. Continuing to run sharply while never asked for his best, Imperial Hint breezed home to win for the second straight year, this time by 4 lengths. The Luis Carvajal, Jr., trainee finished in a new track-record time of 1:07.92 for the 6-furlong sprint over the fast main track.
“He’s an amazing horse,” Castellano said. “He did it again. It’s very impressive. He did this last year in the same race. It’s unbelievable. He’s a very good horse and I always have a lot of confidence in him. He’s a little horse with a big heart. He’s not a huge horse, but he has a lot of talent. I knew they were going pretty quick early in the first part of the race. I had a perfect position in the race tracking them. Turning for home, the way he did it was very impressive. He wanted to go. He was feeling good and gave me everything he had today.”
After breaking as the longest shot on the board (25/1), Diamond Oops was able to grind his way past the fading speed horses to take second by 3 1/2 lengths. The early pace duel appeared to cook Mitole in the end, as the bettors’ choice saw his seven-race win streak come to a halt. He finished third by 2 1/2 lengths over Firenze Fire, who narrowly held fourth by a pair of necks over a spent Strike Power and a non-threatening Do Share.
Mr. Crow was scratched.
Imperial Hint’s victory was his first since capping off a three-race win streak in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park last September that also included the Vanderbilt and the True North Stakes (G2). The 6-year-old son of Imperialism improved his career record to 22-13-2-3 with $2,034,155 earned and will likely target the Vosburgh as a final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Park this November.
“I got to give credit to owner Raymond Mamone,” said Carvajal, Jr. “He had a feeling that he was going to do well in this race, even though we thought he was a little short because we lost a week of training with the weather back in New Jersey, but he was right. This horse keeps surprising me and surprising everybody. We were worried a little bit. Mitole is a very nice horse. He won all of those races in a row. It’s an amazing feeling. I couldn’t believe what was going on around the turn, but he’s a really good horse. He has a lot of heart. He doesn’t have a big body, but he has a lot of heart.”
Imperial Hint returned $13.60 to win, $6.20 to place, and $3.40 to show. Diamond Oops brought back $15.20 to place and $5.30 to show, while Mitole paid $2.10 to show.