ELMONT, N.Y. – Imperial Hint seized the lead from Bobby Abu Dhabi at the sixteenth pole and edged clear before holding off Whitmore by a neck to win the Grade 2, $250,000 True North at Belmont Park on Friday, the second day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the 40th running of the 6 ½-furlong True North, Imperial Hint challenged leader Bobby Abu Dhabi on the turn for home, and the two dueled from there until the Raymond Mamone-owned 5-year-old son of Imperialism grabbed the lead for good.
Whitmore came from last in the six-horse field and closed with a rush, but came up just short of Imperial Hint, who won in 1:15.02. Imperial Hint, ridden by Javier Castellano, returned $5.40 for $2 win wager.
“It worked out perfect,” said Castellano. “The two horses went to the lead and there were very fast fractions. It worked out great, it was a perfect trip. That’s what I was looking for. Usually, I feel like this horse is always on the lead … but today it worked out great. I asked him and he broke again. He’s a nice horse.”
Recruiting Ready, under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, took the lead at the start from the No. 1 post, with Bobby Abu Dhabi close behind. Fast early fractions of 21.85 and 44.52 set up nicely for Imperial Hint.
“We had a pretty good trip,” said Whitmore’s jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., “There was a lot of speed today and my horse ran his race. We wanted to win, but he ran a big race. For a moment I was thinking I could get there but the other horse, he kept going.”
On the far turn, Westwood veered out and carried Always Sunshine even further outside. Westwood was eased by jockey John Velazquez and vanned off following the race.
Imperial Hint, who ran second in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint to 2017 True North winner Roy H, came into the race off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on May 5 over a sloppy track. But he rebounded with his first Grade 2 win and improved his career record to 16-10-2-0 and with the winning purse of $137,500, improved his earnings to $1,017,655.
“I feel relieved,” said winning trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. “Before I went to Kentucky, I had a good feeling about it, but when it started raining – Churchill Downs is a really different kind of track – I got a little bit scared, but he always trains good, he always tries. He’s a small horse but he has a big heart.”
Whitmore finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Bobby Abu Dhabi. Always Sunshine was fourth, followed by Recruiting Ready and Westwood.
Carvajal said the Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship on July 7 is an option for Imperial Hint’s next start, or he might wait until the Saratoga meet.
“I’m very proud, we have a very small barn, and the guys can have a nice feeling about coming to New York and winning at one of the best tracks,” said Carvajal.