06/24/2014 1:08PM

Dream continues for Imperative and his connections

Coady Photography
Claimed for $50,000, Imperative won the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in April.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The worst seats in the stands for Saturday’s $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita may be directly behind Kenji Morinaga, the owner of the 4-year-old Imperative.

Consider Morinaga’s recollection of Imperative’s win in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia on April 19, which he watched from his living room, not far from Santa Anita.

[Gold Cup at Santa Anita: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

“He started in the back, and I was getting off my couch,” Morinaga recalled last weekend. “When he came running, I was up in front of the TV and screaming. When he won, I could have jumped through the roof.”

For Morinaga, 47, the win capped a remarkable first year of involvement in racing. With trainer George Papaprodromou, Morinaga claimed his first horse last fall. He said he now has 15 or 16 horses with the 37-year-old Papaprodromou.

None has had a greater impact than Imperative, a Bernardini gelding who was claimed for $50,000 at Hollywood Park last December, when he finished second in a race over 1 1/16 miles.

This year, Imperative has earned $1,079,450. The Grade 2 Charles Town Classic is his only win in a season that includes second-place finishes in an optional claimer in January and the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 8, both at Santa Anita. The only subpar effort on Imperative’s record this year is a seventh in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 8 won by Game On Dude, who will be favored in the Gold Cup in a field expected to include Majestic Harbor, Clubhouse Ride, Fury Kapcori, and Salto Del Indio.

“I think he probably bounced after the San Antonio,” Papaprodromou said of Imperative’s Big Cap effort.

In the Charles Town Classic, Imperative was a 26-1 outsider in a field of seven. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who has the mount Saturday, Imperative closed from fifth with a sustained rally to reach the front with a furlong to go. He finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Game On Dude.

“He ran a huge race,” Papaprodromou said.

Imperative’s millionaire status greatly exceeds the reasonable expectations Morinaga and Papaprodromou had for him last winter. Previously trained by Eoin Harty for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable, Imperative had won twice at Golden Gate Fields – in a maiden race and an optional claimer – before he began running in claiming races in May 2013.

“We wanted to step him up and maybe he could end up being a little stakes horse,” Papaprodromou said. “We got lucky there. Since we claimed him, he’s getting better and better every day. He’s maturing.”

Morinaga runs an employee leasing firm that specializes in light industry jobs, he said. Previously, he owned a firm that handled medical billing. Racing has always been part of his life, largely through the interest of his father, a fan for decades.

Morinaga said it took time for him to warm to the sport.
“My father used to go all the time,” he said. “My brother started going with him. I felt it didn’t make sense to me to lose money gambling. They got me out here when I was 27. I hit the pick six.”

He recalls collecting $20,000 on the bet. Last year, Morinaga decided it was time for an even bigger risk – ownership. Following the success he has had with Imperative, Morinaga has continued to invest in horses.

“Our philosophy is we win, we keep buying,” Morinaga said. “We keep it in the pot.”

Imperative’s win in the Charles Town Classic has changed plans for him this season. The Breeders’ Cup Classic here Nov. 1 is a long-range goal, and a win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita would provide a fees-paid berth to that race through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program.

One thing about Saturday’s race is predictable. If Imperative is anywhere near the front turning into the stretch, Morinaga will be on his feet. So will everyone around him.

John M. Toothman More than 1 year ago
Desormeaux has all the ability in the world to bring Imperative home. If he is fit and ready look for both of them in the winner's circle.
Zack More than 1 year ago
Hollendorfer places his horses very carefully & at the level where they deserve to be. But, for some reason Jerry has in it to destroy The Dude. He had tried that with Blueskiesnrainbow & now Fury Kapcori. One of these days his run may luck out & hurt the horses he deliberately sends out to hurt the chances of The Dude winning, but, whether The Dude wins or loses, Jerry's horses have no chance to beat Dude as of now, but, he is intent to be the spoiler even if his horse may break down.
Jimmy Walker More than 1 year ago
dude is the dude
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
I always laugh when people run down Clubhouse Ride . He's a multiple Gr. II winner and he's multiple Gr. I placed . He's fast enough to give Gr. I winner Obviously a race on grass. He's fast enough to give Gr. I winner Comma to the top & Gr.I winner Sahara Sky a race on dirt . He's got enough stamina to chase Gr. I winner Dude home going long. He's never lost head to head vs. Gr. I winner Ron The Greek from coast to coast :) No eastern horse has ever finished ahead of him at CT :) Clubhouse Ride could have more wins if he went around pletcher picking a bunch of shallow gr. IIIs & IIs like Palace Malice. Clubhouse Ride lines up against runners. Not bums like Normandy Invasion and Braedster .
Zack More than 1 year ago
Also, what they never talk about is Gr 1 races pay out well and if their horses were good enough they could ship them west, just like we see many Cal horses shipping east and winning, but, since most of the BC races are for whatever reason the CA trainers prefer them to get ready here. Although most of The Dudes races are in CA(his home base), he has also traveled all over included the dreaded Dubai, from where most of the US horses who returned were not the same.
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Mr. Morinaga sounds like he really loves the sport. I hope he gets to shout and holler all he wants. Actually it might be fun sitting in his section. Love to see folks having a good time at the track. As for the Dude, he is one of my all time favorites but he is getting a bit long in the tooth now.
Zack More than 1 year ago
He did not look that long in the tooth when he kicked WTC & MMM rear end and that showed in those horses next race. The only reason that The Dude came 2nd in his next race is because of Moreno who was a rabbit who could go less than 109. But, yet The Dude showed his guts.
Jerome Moynihan More than 1 year ago
nice try at a story.pal but there is no story. GAME romps to everyones delight
Edward Nelson More than 1 year ago
I typical weak spot for game on dude. An overnight stakes race at Belmont has better quality of horses.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
At least 3 millionaires . Belmont is lucky to have 3 millionaires on the grounds.
Edward Nelson More than 1 year ago
Your a fool if you thing California's older horse division is even close to Belmont.
Dom DiNatale More than 1 year ago
Especially if you consider Palace Malice to be based at BEL.....
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Palace Malice :) ROFLMAO ... Palace Malice has a grand total of one open company Grade I win :) And that was a 1 turn mile :) Against Goldencents coming off an 8 month lay-off . Goldencents lives at the same track as Game On Dude Dom :) Doug O'neal never even thinks about trying Goldencents vs. Dude .
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Who are all these great older horses at Belmont ????? Where were they when CT was giving away all that free big money ?? The way I remember that one was the 4 horses that trained in California finished 1234 . Who are all the great older horses at Belmont ?? Name one . Remember Palace Malice has exactly ONE open Grade I win so don't say him :) Dude has EIGHT open company Grade I wins and not one of them was a measley one turn mile:) Dude runs faster inside mile fractions going 10 F than Palace Malice runs mile races :) Dude has more open company Grade I wins than Palace Malice has wins. LOL. Game on Dude is a great horse by any traditional measure . He's fast against the clock . In fact he's consistently faster going 10 furlongs than just about any horse in DRFs Champions book and on his best day there's only one horse in there faster. There isn't any denying that . It's in the pps . Dude is faster than Affirmed but not quite as fast as Spectacular Bid ! That's just the way it is . Dude has won Gr. I open company stakes at 4 ,5 , 6, & 7 . Not MANY horses can claim that feat. Look at it this way . In the last 4 years (so far) there have been 16 Gr. I Open main track 10 furlong races . Game on Dude has won 6 of them and finished 2nd in at least 3 others. Ron The Greek won 2 . Flat Out won 2 . MMM won 1 . Fort Larned 1 . Drosselmeyer 1 . First Dude 1. Dullahan 1. Acclamation 1 . Dude looks pretty great when you look at him that way :)
Steven More than 1 year ago
So Palace Malice has only one GR-1 win... Let's see, the Belmont is a Grade 1, the Metropolitan is Grade 1 as well. At least use facts when you go on one of your rants. Palace Malice will destroy Game on Dude for sport in November.
Zack More than 1 year ago
The so called rematch of the top 3 handicap horses when all easterners were saying that The Dude will come home crawling......Well how did that turn out? WTC & MMM's rear still hurts so bad that they may never recover. If the owner's think so much of their horses, how come they never challenge the Dude in a match race? anywhere going long on dirt. That is easy to organize now a days. SO WHY DONT THEY PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
ROFLMAO - Palace Malice has exactly ONE open company Gr. I win. The Belmont is age restricted for 3 yr. olds. AT LEAST USE FACTS when going on one of your rants :) Get used to this FACT pal . Game on Dude has 7 more Open Company Gr. I wins than PM will ever have . Game on Dude has more graded stakes wins than PM will ever have wins. Game on Dude is going to the Hall of Fame . Palace Malice is going to the pletcher scrap heap with Graydar & Cross Traffic ;) In the end Palace Malice won't add up to a pimple on Game on Dude's behind. Get used to that fact .
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
In November ?? Where the heck was he in March, April & now June ? Oh I forgot he was running in one turn gr. II and III miles vs. stalwarts of the turf like Golden Ticket Normandy Invasion & Braedster . And the Met Mile that had a 12 horse field with Goldencents the owner of the only Gr. I open company win in the field .
Ron Rios More than 1 year ago
You think the great race place can get 4 horses for this race, not including maidens...
riskit101 . More than 1 year ago
For some reason I thought there would be a longer list of names for this race. will probably still attend..
Tim Wells More than 1 year ago
I wish Imperative the best of Luck and I hope when he beats Game on Dude this time that I won't have to hear about the Dude not getting a hold of the Track.