by Teresa Genaro
It’s a story that Raymond Mamone seems to enjoy the more he tells it, and he told it, again, in the winner’s circle at Belmont Park after his Imperial Hint won his second straight Grade 1, the $350,000 Vosburgh Stakes.
Technically, five-year-old Imperial Hint should be a fourth-generation Mamone homebred. But when his dam, the Lahint mare Royal Hint, for several years in a row failed to produce a good runner, or in some years to produce anything at all, Mamone gave her to Bert Pilcher, who owns the farm at which Mamone raises his young horses.
Standing near a paddock looking at two-year-olds, one colt caught his eye.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
The colt, he was told, was the offspring of the mare he had given away.
“How much do you want for him?” Mamone asked.
So, officially bred by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Imperial Hint is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to run in Mamone’s silks for the second year in a row. Since the Vosburgh is part of the “Win & You’re In” Challenge series, this time he’ll get his expenses paid, unlike last year when he prepped for the Breeders’ Cup in an ungraded stakes race at Parx Racing, his home base.
Favored at odds of 1-5 in the Vosburgh, Imperial Hint went to the lead under Javier Castellano after breaking from post 6. Castellano may as well have been sitting on a park bench, so still and at ease was he, as the dark bay horse set fractions of :22.09 and :44.37, seemingly effortlessly.
The rider never moved and Imperial Hint never went all out, geared down to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:08.27 for six furlongs over the fast main track.
Trained by Luis Carvajal Jr., the millionaire has won 12 races from 18 starts. He was second by a length last year in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to Roy H.
“We wanted to get an easy race before the Breeders’ Cup as a prep, because you don’t really want to go into that race having to run really hard,” Carvajal said. “I was a little worried at the end, hoping that Javier didn’t hold him back too much, but the track is fast, and I couldn’t ask anything else from this little horse.”
“I just enjoyed the ride,” Castellano said.
By Imperialism, Imperial Hint was bred in Florida, where Mamone lives. The owner didn’t go to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar last year – “it’s too far,” he said – but there’s no doubt he’ll be at Churchill Downs in early November.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Definitely.”
Remarkable for both his speed and his size, Imperial Hint outruns his slight build, his pony-like frame belying his ability.
“It’s all heart,” Caravajal said. “He just loves to run.”