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February 13, 2019


by Mike Henry
Florida-bred 6-year-old's 2019 debut on Saturday a prep for $2.5-million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30; six-time Oldsmar riding champion sore but alert, undergoes concussion-protocol testing after frightening spill.

Imperial Hint, a two-time Eclipse Award finalist in the Male Sprinter category, will make his 2019 debut in Saturday’s $100,000, 6-furlong Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward. Five rivals are expected.

Trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr., confirmed he plans to use the Pelican as a prep race for the $2.5-million Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates. If all goes well, Imperial Hint would leave for Dubai on March 19.

Antonio Gallardo, who has ridden the horse in his workouts since Imperial Hint returned to training here in January following a third-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, has the assignment for the Pelican. Gallardo is 2-for-4 aboard Imperial Hint, including a dominating victory three years ago here in the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes.

The Pelican is the seventh race on an 11-race Saturday card. The 35th edition of the Pelican and the 38th running of the $50,000, 6-furlong Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward will shine a spotlight on the track’s best sprinters.

During today’s card, six-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno was injured when he fell from his mount, 4-year-old gelding R Baby Driver, after taking the lead in deep stretch in the eighth race. R Baby Driver appeared to duck out from left-handed urging and unseated Centeno, who somersaulted twice before having his helmet cover knocked loose by a trailing horse.

Centeno was lifted into the back of an ambulance but was then returned to the jockeys’ room, where he was diagnosed with a leg contusion and underwent concussion-protocol testing. He was getting around and talking, but his status for Friday is uncertain. R Baby Driver appeared to be unhurt.

A 113-1 shot, Goforthegusto, won the race, paying $228.60 to win. Gary Wales rode that 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding to victory for owner Celestino Dilibero and trainer Marcy Brooks. The 10-3 $2 exacta paid a Tampa Bay Downs-record $4,288 and the 10-3-5 50-cent trifecta paid a track record $51,724.70 to one bettor.  

Back, thankfully, to Saturday and Imperial Hint, who was the runner-up in the 2017 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint; with his presence, the Pelican will feature one of the world’s fastest horses in training.

The 6-year-old Florida-bred, who is 12-for-19 lifetime with career earnings of $1,582,655, won the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 28 at Saratoga in 1:08.98 at the distance. In his next start, the Grade I Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 29, the Florida-bred son of Imperialism blazed home first in 1:08.27.

Raymond Mamone owns Imperial Hint.

“All systems are ready to launch,” said Carvajal, who sent Imperial Hint out Saturday to breeze 4 furlongs in 47 1/5 seconds. “We only gave him about two weeks off after the Breeders’ Cup, so the first time he worked here (47 2/5, on Jan. 3) he was already fit and he worked fantastic. We wanted to keep him healthy and happy, and hopefully this race will help tighten him up for Dubai.”

In the Dubai Golden Shaheen, Imperial Hint could face last year’s Pelican winner, X Y Jet, who finished second in both the 2018 and 2016 Golden Shaheen and won an allowance/optional claiming race today at Gulfstream; Mind Your Biscuits, who has won the last two runnings of the Golden Shaheen; and the reigning two-time Eclipse Award Male Sprint Champion, Roy H, who has won the last two TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprints and finished third in last year’s Golden Shaheen.

“Whenever you have a horse like this, you always want to run against the best,” Carvajal said. “At the same time, trainers with an eye on another race try to do what is best for the horse right now. We would love to run against those top horses (Saturday), but do you really want to go against the heavy heads when the Super Bowl is the next game?

“I always try to run my horses at 100 percent, and he is fit and ready to go,” Carvajal said. “He likes this track, he’s been training well and he has a jockey he knows. Horses love to win and when they win they get more confident, and you’d like an easy spot for your horse when you know the next time they run it’s the best against the best.”

Among those horses seeking to build their confidence in the Pelican at Imperial Hint’s expense is supplemental entry Tricks to Doo, owned by Lael Stables and trained by Arnaud Delacour. The 4-year-old colt won last season’s Inaugural Stakes as a 2-year-old and returned after a layoff of more than eight months to finish second in the Turf Dash on Dec. 1.

Tricks to Doo, who won a 5-furlong allowance/optional claiming event on the turf in his most recent start on Jan. 12, will be ridden by Declan Cannon.

Imperial Hint will break from the outside No. 6 post position, while Tricks to Doo drew the No. 3 post.

Other Pelican entrants and their jockeys, in post position order:

  1. Sweetontheladies, Marcos Meneses; 2. Hollis, Jesus Castanon; 4. Old Time Revival, Odilon Martinez; 5. Killybegs Captain, Samy Camacho.

Imperial Hint has been assigned top weight of 124 pounds, giving between 4-6 pounds to the others.

The Minaret, which is the ninth race, has drawn a field of nine fillies and mares. Among the apparent strong contenders are Silver Bay, who won the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes here on Dec. 15, trained by Bill Hickey and to be ridden by Dean Butler; Heavenly Score, a graded stakes-placed performer on turf, trained by John P. Terranova, II and to be ridden by Pablo Morales; and Elevenses, second in a Grade III off-the-turf event at Belmont last spring, trained by Tim Hamm and to be ridden by Gallardo.

Also, Abounding Joy, a lightly raced 4-year-old trained by Rodolphe Brisset, with Camacho getting the riding assignment; leading trainer Gerald Bennett’s uncoupled entry of Pink Mama and Silly Factor; and Florida-bred filly Souper Echo, trained by Michael Trombetta and to be ridden by Jesus Castanon.

Around the oval. Leading trainer Gerald Bennett and owner Rich Averill’s Averill Racing combined for two winners today. They won the first race with Big Awesome, a 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding ridden by Feargal Lynch. Bennett and Averill Racing also won the fourth race with Publicist, a 7-year-old Florida-bred mare ridden by Centeno.

Publicist was claimed from the race for $5,000 by trainer Jose H. Delgado for new owner Maria Stables.

Antonio Gallardo rode two winners. He captured the second race on General Paddy, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Angel Ubarri and trained by Darien Rodriguez. General Paddy was claimed for $8,000 by trainer Nick Caruso for new owner Bruno Schickedanz.

Gallardo added the ninth and final race on Sarasota County, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Richlyn Farms and trained by Bill Hickey.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.