Loooch Racing and Imaginary Stables’ Imperative advanced six wide into contention on the final turn and outfinished Matt King Coal and War Story to prevail by a neck in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic (G2).
Winner of the 2014 Charles Town centerpiece event and second in the 2015 edition, the Bob Hess-trained gelding was making his fourth consecutive appearance at the West Virginia track after posting a fourth last year. Javier Castellano was up on the 7-year-old.
A reformed claimer, the son of Bernardini has now earned $2,973,135 from a 38-6-8-3 record. Imperative opened 2017 with a victory in the January 28 Poseidon at Gulfstream Park and was exiting a last-place effort in the March 11 Santa Anita H. (G1).
The winner was off as the 5-1 fourth choice among eight rivals.
Stanford, favored at 6-5 in a title defense after leading wire to wire last year, flashed speed at the start but surrendered the early advantage to Cautious Giant, who shared common ownership with Imperative and War Story and sprinted forward to serve the role of a rabbit at 84-1 The pacesetter established early splits in :23.43 and :47.38 on the sloppy track.
Stanford tracked the pace in second before seizing the advantage, reaching the three-quarters point in 1:12.60. Matt King Coal loomed a serious threat entering the far turn, with War Story and Imperative both launching their move from off the pace as they rounded the bend.
Stanford checked out in early stretch, with Matt King Coal surging to the lead, but Imperative was rolling on the outside with War Story also charging into contention. Imperative wound not be denied in the latter stages, surging forward in the shadow of the wire to edge Matt King Coal, who wound up a neck better than War Story. The runner-up was off at 8-1 and War Story the 7-2 third choice.
Imperative, who was bred in Kentucky by Glencrest Farm and Darley, completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.05.
Charles Town Classic Quotes:
Bob Hess, winning trainer:
“I love the surface. I don’t mean wet or not wet either. It looks like a really kind surface and the banks on the turns are superb and the best horse won. I think a big key was (owner) Ron (Paolucci) allowing us to take him Keeneland and train him on the synthetic there which is a really kind surface, which is what this horse needs. He needs Gulfstream, he needs these soft east coast tracks.”
On Imperative’s trip:
“Plenty of pace. We had a smooth trip. I thought we might be in trouble going into the far turn and I thought he was really wide but I didn’t know how much horse he had left. Javier found that extra gear and when he got to the front, he might have hung a touch but then kind of surged again, so it was exciting. Very exciting.”
Ron Paolucci, principle owner of Loooch Racing, owner of Imperative:
“The whole life is about family and my dad (Ron Paolucci, Sr.) is not doing real well and I wish he could be here. That’s the toughest part. I know he’s watching from home. I know how proud he is of me. He always said that fat little kid from Stow, Ohio would make something of himself and, like most kids, all you want to do is please your parents and my dad gets so much joy out of the races.”
On what may be next for Imperative:
“The big key for him is getting him away from California. It’s hard. It’s not a good surface for him to train on. He runs there on all heart. I think we’re going to have a good campaign with him this summer out here on the east coast and I think if you look at every race he’s run outside of California, it’s been dynamite. We’re thinking about the Met Mile (G1). Giving him a little time in between. Looks like there would be a lot of speed in that race. But we’ll see. That’s the initial plan.”