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March 17, 2018


by Mike Henry
The 2017 TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up is training up a storm for his 5-year-old debut; Daniel Centeno, Samy Camacho and Raul Mena each ride two winners; late Pick-5 carryover pool for Sunday in excess of $28,000.

After Imperial Hint’s second-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 4 at Del Mar, trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr., targeted the $2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 31 at Meydan Racecourse for his initial 5-year-old start.

But the multiple graded-stakes winner came down with a virus that caused him to miss a couple of weeks of training, forcing Carvajal to change plans.

Dubai’s loss appears to be Tampa Bay Downs’ gain. Carvajal plans to enter Imperial Hint in the Florida Cup Horse Races NOW Sprint on March 25, one of six $100,000 stakes races for registered Florida-breds on the 16th annual Florida Cup Day card.

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano plans to make the trip from south Florida to ride Imperial Hint in the 6-furlong, main-track contest, renewing acquaintances after they teamed for a pair of stakes victories last summer before their second-place finish to the subsequent Eclipse Award Champion Male Sprinter, Roy H, in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“He’s training well and hopefully he can give people a good show on Florida Cup Day,” said Carvajal, who has campaigned the son of Imperialism-Royal Hint, by Lahint, to an 8-for-13 career record and more than $800,000 in earnings. “We wanted to see him run once if we were going to Dubai, but we don’t want to rush him.

“Right now he is doing fantastic, and he loves this track. There are plenty of big races here in the United States this year, and we always want to do what is in the best interest of the horse.”

This is the second consecutive year Imperial Hint has missed the Dubai Golden Shaheen due to illness. Last year, he made the trip overseas, but he became ill after a 6-hour layover on the flight from New York to Belgium, followed by the connecting journey to the United Arab Emirates.

“He went from zero degrees to 100 degrees, and he spiked a fever when he got there and had to stay in Dubai for a month,” Carvajal said.

Imperial Hint, who was bred by Bert Pilcher’s Shade Tree Thoroughbreds and is owned by Raymond Mamone, turned in a 59.4 5-furlong breeze under Oldsmar jockey Raul Mena on Thursday that was the fastest of 14 recorded at the distance. He had breezed 5 panels in 59.2, also a bullet workout, a week earlier.

Although he has raced here only twice, the 2017 Eclipse Award Male Sprint finalist treats the sandy Oldsmar oval as his personal playground. Imperial Hint won his career debut here as a 3-year-old, winning a 7-furlong maiden special weight contest at odds of 28-1 in an eye-catching 1:22.39.

Seven weeks later, he won the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes in 1:22.15, winning by almost seven lengths.

Racing fans who come to see Imperial Hint on March 25 could have a lot to talk about as the year progresses. “There are plenty of big races for him here in the United States,” Carvajal said, “and if everything goes well, we’ll probably be looking to the (Grade II) Churchill Downs Stakes (on May 5).”

Imperial Hint could be challenged in the Horse Races NOW Sprint by multiple stakes-winning 8-year-old gelding Delta Bluesman, from the barn of trainer Jorge Navarro, and Mo Cash, Ron Spatz’s 4-year-old gelding who won last year’s Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore and returned here in December to capture the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes.

Also expected to return to Tampa Bay Downs is trainer David Fawkes’ 4-year-old filly Surprise Wedding, who won the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes in December and has been nominated to the mile-and-a-sixteenth Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf.

There, she is likely to meet 4-year-old Compelled, who won the Mardi Gras Stakes last month at Fair Grounds in her most recent start.

The multiple graded-stakes placed Compelled is owned by her breeder, Glen Hill Farm, and trained by Tom Proctor. Glen Hill leads all owners with eight Florida Cup victories, with Proctor having trained a Florida Cup-high eight winners.

Fawkes is expected to send out the ultra-consistent 5-year-old gelding Galleon Mast in the mile-and-an-eighth EG Vodka Turf Classic. Galleon Mast has four victories and three seconds in his most recent seven races, all stakes, including a game runner-up performance in the Grade III Canadian Turf on March 3 at Gulfstream.

Three Florida Cup races are slated for 3-year-olds. The mile-and-a-sixteenth DRF Bets Sophomore Turf is likely to attract the Todd Pletcher-trained Elk Camp, who has won both of his turf starts; a pair of Mark Casse-trained runners, He’s Bankable and March to the Arch; and stakes-placed The X, trained by Ben Colebrook.

The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore is carded at7 furlongs on the main track. A field of eight or more horses is expected, including the impressive Gulfstream Park maiden winners Noble Commander, trained by Casse, and Noble Drama, trained by Fawkes.

Up-and-coming females get their shot in the 7-furlong Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies. The headliner could be trainer Steve Dwoskin’s multiple stakes-winner Starship Bonita, with conditioner Eddie Kenneally’s Dessert Honeys, who finished a head and a neck behind Starship Bonita in her stakes triumphs, also possible.

Around the oval. Jockeys Daniel Centeno, Samy Camacho and Raul Mena each rode two winners today. Centeno won the fifth and sixth races on the turf, first scoring with Game Girl, a 5-year-old mare owned by Steven R. Smith and trained by Lonnie Arterburn. Centeno added the sixth on 6-year-old gelding Greenfield for owner Gina Wright and trainer Michael W. Wright.

Camacho captured the third race on Chique to Chique, a 7-year-old mare owned by Josie Gump and trained by Bill Sienkewicz. She was claimed from the race by trainer Dale Bennett for new owners Equiforce, Inc., Keith Hoffman and Frank Nicholson.

Camacho added the ninth on first-time starter Happiness, who won the maiden special weight affair for 3-year-old fillies by 11 ¾ lengths in 1:04.66 for the five-and-a-half furlong distance.

Happiness provided trainer Christopher Seale with his first career victory from six starts. Seale is the co-owner with Dana Barber.

Mena won the first race on Aventine Hill, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned and trained by Kathleen Guciardo, who also bred the winner. Mena also won the seventh eighth race on the turf on Glamorous Thunder, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Selvin Quevedo and Kimberly Contreras and trained by Luis R. Dominguez.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:44 p.m. No one hit the late Pick-5 today, creating a carryover pool of $28,596.79 for Sunday’s late Pick-5 beginning with the sixth race.

Tampa Bay Downs currently races each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 1, when the track is closed.

Otherwise, Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.