03/29/2017 10:40AM

Carvajal waits for Imperial Hint to get well in Dubai

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Imperial Hint probably will not be ready to travel home from Dubai for several weeks.

American horses fared well at Meydan Racecourse last Saturday, and their connections were generously rewarded. But not every horseman left with a big payday. As a matter of fact, one trainer hasn’t been able to leave at all.

Luis Carvajal Jr. trains a small stable at Parx Racing. He developed the small-in-stature-but-big-at-heart Imperial Hint into one of the top sprinters in the Mid-Atlantic region this winter and scored his first graded stakes win as a trainer in the $250,000 General George at Laurel Park in February.

That victory earned Imperial Hint an invitation to the $2 million Golden Shaheen. But since the free nomination deadline of Jan. 15 had already passed, his owner had to pay a $2,000 supplementary fee.

When Imperial Hint departed for Dubai on March 15, he looked like a top contender in the six-furlong race. But he came down with a fever upon arrival and then was found to have fluid in his lungs. Although Imperial Hint has never outwardly appeared very sick, according to Carvajal, the illness is lingering.

On Wednesday, the U.S. contingent was to fly home from Dubai, but Imperial Hint stayed behind. On Monday, Carvajal was informed that it could be weeks before Imperial Hint is ready to travel.

“The vet came over with the swab results and said the horse is making progress, but he is not ready to go home,” Carvajal said by phone from Dubai on Tuesday. “When he told me it might be two or three weeks before he should travel, it was like a bucket of cold water was poured over my head. I thought we might have to stay a few extra days, but it was a shock.”

Carvajal is free to return home but has chosen to stay with his horse, even though the glamour of the trip has worn off.

“They have professional grooms over here, and they care about the horses and do a very good job, but leaving just doesn’t feel right to me,” Carvajal said. “I have known this horse a long time, and he has been very good to me. He’s in good hands, but I don’t want to leave him here alone.”

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With World Cup Day in the rearview mirror, Carvajal said things around Meydan have begun to shut down. He has changed hotels and is trying to arrange to stay on or near the track. The hotel shuttles are a thing of the past, and he now is taking taxis to and from the track in the mornings and afternoons.

“This is a beautiful country, very modern,” he said. “But things are expensive.”

Carvajal also misses his family and has horses at Parx who need his attention.

“I am getting homesick,” he said. “While I’ve been away, my kid, who is 5 months old, got sick, and my wife had to take him to the hospital. This entire experience has been upsetting for my owner and friend, Raymond Mamone.”

The good news is that Imperial Hint is doing well and should be able to resume light training when he returns to Parx.

“I was planning on taking him to a farm when we get home, but he is getting good rest here, having his little vacation,” Carvajal said. “The horse acts like he’s feeling 100 percent. His coat is shiny, he’s eating, and he’s happy when he walks. He’s going the right direction.”

Being invited to participate in the Golden Shaheen seemed like the chance of a lifetime for Carvajal, who thought his improving 4-year-old had a good chance to win.

“I guess Cinderella stories don’t always work out,” he said.