Race Previews

Vanderbilt Handicap Preview: Imperial Hint Headlines Solid Field

Imperial Hint winning the $100,000 Horse Races NOW Sprint at Tampa Bay Downs (Credit: SV Photography)

The Grade 1, $350,000 Vanderbilt Handicap is set for another strong edition this Saturday at Saratoga when the field of seven looks to battle it out at The Spa. Set to go off as race eight, the Vanderbilt is part of an 11-race card that also features the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, the Grade 3 Amsterdam Stakes, and the Grade 2 Bowling Green. The Vanderbilt will be part of an extended edition of Saratoga Live from 4-7 p.m. ET on MSG+, FOX Sports Prime Ticket, and FOX Sports San Diego.

Imperial Hint will be making his first start at Saratoga after getting back to his winning ways last time out in the Grade 2 True North Stakes. He burst onto the scene last year with a win in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park before eventually finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last fall at Del Mar. Two races back, he struggled at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, but trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. believes that he has his star horse back on track.

“When I went to Kentucky, I had high hopes because the horse was training so well,” he said. “I started to get worried about two hours before the race. It was raining so hard and I wasn’t a big fan of how the track looked then. That day, I took a chance because we were there already, and he had been training so good. It didn’t disappoint me, though, because I thought we could be in trouble that day.

“He came out of that race good, and then we went to New York, and I knew he was going to run good,” he added. “We had a couple of nice horses there, like Whitmore and everyone, there but I knew he was going to try hard because he does that. That race in the True North really helped him. He put a lot of effort in that race, and we’ve given him about seven weeks to this race, so he’s coming in fresh.”

Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano has the mount on Imperial Hint when he breaks from post 4.

The full field for the Vanderbilt: Switzerland, Petrov, Warrior’s Club, Imperial Hint, Sweetontheladies, Mr. Crow, and Done Deal.

Top Choice

#4 Imperial Hint – Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up rebounded from a poor effort to win the True North and signaled that he’s back to his top form, which should set him up nicely for this race. He also cuts back slightly to 6 furlongs for this one, which is his best distance. Recently, he put in a solid work at Parx leading up to this race, even further signaling that he is ready to roll. This horse will not blow you away in the paddock because of his small stature, but he has big-time ability and should be difficult to beat in this spot.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#1 Switerzerland – Since moving to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, this horse is a perfect 3-for-3. Last time out, he won the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint with ease by over 3 lengths. He has not been challenged since the trainer change, but this is by far the toughest spot that he has entered. This horse was highly regarded right from the start and is finally coming into his own in a big way.

Exotic Plays

#7 Done Deal – This is the hot horse coming into the race. He has won four in a row, including the Iowa Sprint Handicap last time out at Prairie Meadows. Not only is this 5-year-old son of Macho Uno winning races, but he’s absolutely crushing his competition. His narrowest margin of victory in his current streak was 3 1/4 lengths. Obviously, this will be the most difficult spot that he’s ever tried, but after dominating his rivals like he has, it’s clear that he is ready to face tougher horses.

#6 Mr. Crow – This horse gives Grade 1 company a shot once again but will need to show up with an improved effort. He won his 2018 debut by 2 lengths against allowance/optional claiming company three back, but he has struggled in his last two starts. However, there are times when he can jump up and run a very big race, and you can draw a line through that last start as bobbled at the start and lost early position.

Party Crashers

#3 Warrior’s Club – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has not been shy about running this horse in some big-time spots, and Warrior’s Club has rewarded his trainer’s confidence at times with some nice efforts. He cuts back to 6 furlongs for the first time since March, but he has won at this distance. If he can do it again, the winner’s circle will be packed, as Warrior’s Club is owned by the Churchill Downs Racing Club. This was the first horse that the club purchased, and he has turned out to be a smashing success.

Throw Outs

#2 Petrov – Trainer Ron Moquett takes a shot with Petrov again in this spot after a couple of failed stakes attempts earlier this season. Moquett is never afraid to take a chance, though, and this horse has shown flashes in the past where he could be good enough to make a little noise in this spot. However, he will have to improve on his current form.

#5 Sweetontheladies – This son of Twirling Candy has gone a long time without recording a win, but he showed a bit of promise last time out with a second-place effort (via disqualification) in the 2018 edition of the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park. That race earned him a shot against this group. He will drop to the back of the pack and try to make one big run at the end.

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