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.