Imperial Hint proves best in Fire Plug

by | Jan 14, 2017 | Breaking, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing

Imperial Hint won the Fire Plug Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Frank Vespe

Scratches turned the 11-horse field in Saturday’s $75,000 Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park into a seven-horse tilt.

And bettors turned four-year-old Imperial Hint from a 6-1 morning line outsider into the 8-5 post time favorite.

Turns out the bettors knew what they were doing — and so, perhaps, did the trainers who opted for a different day with their charges.

Under jockey Trevor McCarthy, Imperial Hint took over leaving the three-eighths marker and went on to post a three-length victory in 1:10.52 over a good, sealed track.  Late runners Chublicious and defending champ Sonny Inspired took second and third, respectively.

Even with the bevy of scratches, this race had the look of a wide-open affair — before it was run.  In addition to the top trio, also in the starting gate were a pair — Trouble Kid and Chief Lion — who’d earned more than $500,000 each; $200,000 earner Measured; and stakes-placed Big Guy Ian.

Imperial Hint, meanwhile, had not quite lived up to early promise in his still-brief career.  The Imperialism colt had won a Florida-bred stake in his second career start for trainer Luis Carvajal, but his two wins in six tries since had both come in allowance company.  And he’d finished behind Measured, Chief Lion, and Chublicious in the Fabulous Strike at Penn National on Thanksgiving eve.

But in his last start, in an allowance at Penn National, he’d returned to his preferred speed-flaunting style, with the result a six-length win.

He showed that speed again today.  While ultra-quick Trouble Kid took the early lead, and had the edge through a quarter-mile in 22.05 seconds, Imperial Hint and McCarthy were were perched perfectly to that runner’s outside, with Imperial Hint awaiting his cue.

He took control as Trouble Kid faltered — he would finish seventh and last in his first start for new trainer Phil Schoenthal — and led by a length after a half-mile in 45.39 seconds.  McCarthy put him to a drive entering the lane, and Imperial Hint, responding readily, was never threatened thereafter.

“We were pretty confident coming into this race, and he did exactly what we wanted him to do,” Carvajal said. “Trevor gave him a great ride for us.”

He paid $5.20 to win and topped an exacta that was good for $21.40.

Imperial Hint now has won five of nine career starts, and he’s earned $199,805.