01/28/2017 4:46PM

Imperative surges late to win Poseidon Handicap

Michael Amoruso
Imperative, 3, paid $16.40 in winning the Poseidon Handicap on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Coming to south Florida and attending the Pegasus World Cup was the furthest thing from trainer Bob Hess Jr.’s mind when the new year began, let alone having a major impact on one of the keynote races on the card. But he did just that by sending out Imperative to register a hard-fought head victory over the odds-on Stanford in the $400,000 Poseidon Handicap Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

“Ron (Paolucci) gave me a call about 2 1/2 weeks ago and asked if I had an empty stall,” said Hess, who is stabled regularly at Santa Anita. “I said absolutely, and then he bought Imperative.”

Hess shipped the 7-year-old, multi-millionaire Imperative to Gulfstream more than a week in advance of the Poseidon; the horse worked a strong six furlongs in 1:13.46 on January 20.

With jockey Antonio Gallardo aboard for the first time, Imperative raced well placed, within easy striking distance of the early leaders, made a quick four-wide move to engage Stanford approaching the stretch, then surged late to get his head in front at the wire.

Stanford rated close up, slipped inside the leaders to gain a short advantage down the backstretch, dug in gamely when engaged by the winner in early stretch, but could not last. Madefromlucky finished third while never threatening the top two.

Imperative, a 7-year-old son of Bernardini, completed 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:48.97, and paid $16.40.

“Richard Baltas (Imperative’s previous trainer) was very forthright telling us about his little quirks,” Hess said. “He worked great and I think he likes a little sandier track (than he had been racing on in California).”

Hess said he believed Imperative would remain at Gulfstream Park and target a race either locally or at Oaklawn Park, with his next major goal another trip to the Charlestown Classic. Imperative finished fourth, behind Stanford, in the 2016 Charlestown Classic.