Imperial Hint Taking Connections On Ride of a Lifetime

By Dick Jerardi

Through the years, Parx Racing has been home to some incredibly fast sprinters. Gallant Bob, My Juliet and Dainty Dotsie are already in the track’s Hall of Fame.

Imperial Hint, fresh off his first Grade I win in the July 28 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga, is on his way. No bigger than a pony, Imperial Hint is the fastest horse in America.

The Vanderbilt was also the first Grade I for trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr., and owner Raymond Mamone. They will be looking for another one in a few months when Imperial Hint goes for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a race he lost by just one length in 2017.

“It’s just an amazing feeling, especially the way he did it,” Carvajal said the day after the Vanderbilt. “The way he runs, it’s just amazing. I can’t describe it.”

Actually, the trainer described it perfectly.

Imperial Hint won by 3 3/4 lengths. He ran the six furlongs in 1:08.98. And, amazingly, at no time did jockey Javier Castellano ever ask Imperial Hint to give anything close to his best. The horse won with total ease.

“I read somewhere he made Javier Castellano look like a statue,” Carvajal said.

The jockey’s whip was superfluous. He barely moved his hands. Imperial Hint was running away from a Grade I field, after 17 races, 11 wins, $1,210,155 in earnings and eight stakes wins, like the best may be yet to come.

“I was really happy,” Carvajal said.

Carvajal is stabled at Parx “because it has a really good program, plus the purses are good and I just wanted to stay in one place year round.”

His stable is small. In 12 years of training, Carvajal has started just 1,001 horses with 95 winners and $3.6 million in earnings. One horse, Imperial Hint is responsible for 1.7 percent of the starts and 33 percent of the earnings.

Imperial Hint’s two starts at his home track were memorable: a six-length win in an optional claimer on Dec. 17, 2016 and in what was one of the best performances in the history of the track, a 6 3/4 length-win in the Donald LeVine Memorial on Sept. 4, 2017. Castellano was a statue that day, too, when Imperial Hint ran his six furlongs in 1:07.55.

“I love to run at Parx,” Carvajal said. “He loves that track.”

Imperial Hint’s owner Raymond Mamone is from Somerville, N.J. He has been running horses at Parx for years.

“He doesn’t say much,” Carvajal said when asked for the owner’s reaction when Imperial Hint won the Vanderbilt. “But I can see the expression on his face. He looked like he wanted to cry.”

Imperial Hint can do that to people.

Carvajal plans one more start prior to the Breeders’ Cup, most likely the DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park on Sept. 15 or Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 29. Timing wise, the DeFrancis might work better.

Regardless, Imperial Hint will be training at Parx right up until he heads to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in November.

So when did Carvajal know that Imperial Hint was special?

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I saw that this was going to be a really nice horse the first time I worked him,” Carvajal said. “He took the jockey for a ride.”

Now, Imperial Hint is taking his owner and trainer on the ride of their lives.

Discreet Lover is Every Horseman’s Dream


By Dick Jerardi

Uriah St. Lewis never got discouraged. Not when Discreet Lover was 56-1 in his 2015 debut. Not in 2016, when the horse was 87-1 in the Ohio Derby, 82-1 in the Indiana Derby or 238-1 in the Pennsylvania Derby at his home track. Or later that year when the horse was 72-1 in a stake in Maryland and then 62-1 in a New York stake. Not in 2017 when Discreet Lover was 86-1, 84-1, 55-1, 58-1 and 37-1 in one stake in Maryland and four in New York.

The horse St. Lewis purchased for $10,000 in May 2015 at Timonium never stopped trying. So, the owner-trainer was not going to stop either. In the 37th start of his career, Discreet Lover won the Grade III Excelsior at Aqueduct, the horse’s and trainer’s first graded stakes of their careers. Along the way, Discreet Lover picked up checks, including a third in that Ohio Derby, a second in the Parx Derby, two seconds in Laurel stakes, a third in a Penn National stake. Now, after 41 starts, Discreet Lover is better than he has ever been and St. Lewis is going to take his horse of a lifetime back to Saratoga on Aug. 4 for another shot in the Grade I Whitney, a race where he finished fifth behind Horse of the Year Gunrunner last year.

“It’s a dream come true,” St. Lewis said of having a horse like Discreet Lover. “That’s what every trainer in the world is looking for.”

The horse by $1,000 sire Repent that was bought for $10,000, has won $821,560. And if Discreet Lover can get one of those “Win and You’re In” races, the owner-trainer is thinking Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs.

Discreet Lover has been favored just three times, but he won them all. The five-year-old has six wins, seven seconds and six thirds. He was a solid fourth at 72-1 in the 2018 Metropolitan Mile and, most recently, an excellent third in the Suburban at 41-1.

Discreet Lover sprinted in the first eight races of his career, but St. Lewis always thought he was a distance horse. So his last 33 races have been at a mile or more.

“He’s easy to work around,” St. Lewis said. “The only thing he does is bite. He loves to bite. He doesn’t kick at you, he doesn’t strike you. He just nibbles. And he travels. Any place we take him, he runs.”

True that. In addition to running 17 times at Parx, Discreet Lover has run at Saratoga, Belmont Park, Aqueduct, Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico, Penn National, Charles Town, Thistledown and Indiana Grand.

“I’d love to have Jose Flores with us because Jose Flores rode him most of the time,” St. Lewis said.

Just two days after finishing third on Discreet Lover in a March 17 stake at Laurel, Flores, the Parx Hall of Fame jockey, tragically suffered injuries during a race that were so devastating that he died a few days later.

When Discreet Lover won the Excelsior in his next start, St. Lewis pointedly said it was for Jose. The races are still for Jose. It’s almost, St. Lewis said, like Jose is still on his back and finding a way to keep the horse going during his races.

And Discreet Lover keeps trying, making anyone ever associated with the horse proud.

“We just go for the ride,” St. Lewis said. “While we are going for the ride, he’s been picking up $80,000, $90,000, $70,000. You can’t complain.”

St. Lewis has heard from several breeders. So whenever Discreet Lover’s racing career is over, the horse will have a second career.

“I would like to finish his career this year,” St. Lewis said. “I would love to let him maybe win the Whitney and maybe get to the Breeders’ Cup and be very competitive in the Breeders’ Cup and then I will retire him.”

Before the end, there are more races to be run. And one thing is certain. If Discreet Lover is in the race, he will come running in the stretch. He may not pass all the horses, but he will pass many of them and, every once in a while, all of them.