Imprimis and Irad Ortiz Jr. at the wire in the Runhappy Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs
One year after getting beat as the favorite in the Grade 3, $700,000 Runhappy Turf Sprint Stakes, Imprimis rewarded those who retained the faith in him on Saturday as the Broken Vow gelding got up by a neck over Front Run the Fed to capture the 2020 edition of the race at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky.
The six-furlong Turf Sprint offered the winner a fees-paid spot in the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) on Nov. 7 at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series’ “Win and You’re In” program.
The trip to Kentucky Downs for Imprimis represented just the second start of the year for the 6-year-old and his first win since taking the 2019 Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes. Though the record shows the dark bay gelding coming in off a loss in the Grade 3 Troy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 8, he actually crossed the wire first by 2 1/4 lengths that day but was disqualified for interference and placed third.
“None of us were happy about it. I’d say 90 percent of the people, because they’re my friends or trying to make me feel better, they all thought we got a bad deal,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “But it is what it is. You can’t take the win away from the horse. He ran his heart out off a 10-month layoff. Went up there and won that. We’re going to get to our goal, that’s the Breeders’ Cup. He loves Keeneland. So we’re pretty excited.”
That big run Imprimis put in at Saratoga was his first start since running sixth in the last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and it served a warning for the kind of form he would bring to Franklin, Ky.
Sent off as the 3-1 favorite in the 11-horse field, Imprimis rated in fifth in an outside path as Bombard covered the opening quarter mile in :22.39 but found himself shuffled back with a wall of horses in front of him as the field reached the top of the stretch.
With three-sixteenths of a mile to go, Imprimis began making his big on the far outside under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and ended up in a three-way battle to the wire that saw him surge past Front Run the Fed and third-place finisher Bombard.
“A year ago (when fourth as the favorite), it was his first race since Royal Ascot,” Orseno said. “He wasn’t quite back to himself. We tried to rush him along for the Breeders’ Cup. We probably made a couple of bad moves.
“I had him where I wanted him (this year),” Orseno added. “I did everything we could do as far as the training and everything he’s doing, his weight. We were very happy with him coming here. I expected this effort. But this was a tough race. There were some quality horses in there. I mean, the Breeders’ Cup won’t be any tougher. We’re very happy where we have him right now.”
Said Ortiz: “He ran big. I rode him before on the soft turf at Pimlico, and I knew he handled it pretty good. So I wasn’t afraid. I rode him with confidence. They moved outside of me, and I didn’t want to see that, but they moved so I said let me just wait because it was a little early. When I tipped him out, he responded really well. He was coming.”
When Imprimis hit the wire in 1:09.93 over a course rated soft, it capped a huge day for owner Mike Hall of Breeze Easy, LLC, who also won the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes with Outadore.
“It feels wonderful. What a wonderful horse,” Hall said of Imprimis. “We’ve had so much fun with him. Since the day we bought him, he’s just been an awesome horse. Joe Orseno has done a great job keeping him going.”
Hall was just sorry that his Breeze Easy partner Sam Ross was home in Parkersburg, W.Va., and not at the track. “I know he’s jumping up and down,” Hall said. “I love him like my dad, and if it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t be here. He makes this whole game for us much more exciting than what I could do by myself.”
Totally Boss, winner of the Turf Sprint Stakes last year, finished seventh on Saturday.
“He didn’t seem to like the track today,” said Florent Geroux, jockey for Totally Boss. “He was stumbling a lot and never got his footing right. He ran even, but hated the track from the beginning. He was never in a good spot.”
Bred in Florida by Craig Wheeler, Imprimis now boasts eight wins from 15 career starts with $759,948 in earnings.
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