02/01/2017 12:36PM

Imperial Hint gives Carvajal a boost

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Imperial Hint earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Fire Plug Stakes.

Like many trainers, Luis Carvajal Jr. has found it difficult to grow his stable. Owners today seem to flock to the bigger operations, which puts added pressure on small to medium-sized outfits.

Fortunately for Carvajal, Imperial Hint keeps improving and appears set for a successful 4-year-old season. He has won his last two races and earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for his convincing victory in the Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park on Jan. 14.

“Things are a little tough,” Carvajal said. “I’ve been having trouble getting a lot of horses. I’m hoping Imperial Hint helps put me on the map.”

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Carvajal is pointing Imperial Hint to the Grade 3, $250,000 General George, a seven-furlong stakes at Laurel on Feb. 18. At this early juncture, Stallwalkin’ Dude, Afleet Willy, King Kranz, and Page McKenney also are under consideration for the race.

Carvajal, a 44-year-old native of Chile, worked for Angel Penna Jr. and the late Robert Durso before opening his own stable in 2006. His barn usually averages about 10 horses but shrinks in the winter when he rests some of his stock. He currently has four horses stabled at Parx Racing.

“I learned a lot from Mr. Penna and Mr. Durso,” Carvajal said. “Bob was like a father to me. I was his assistant for 10 years.”

Carvajal is based at Monmouth Park in the summer, just as Durso used to be. Carvajal worked for Durso when he had his best horse, Frisk Me Now, a winner of 12 of 36 starts and $1.7 million from 1996 to 1999. His victories included the Ohio Derby, Pennsylvania Derby, and Flamingo at 3 and the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park and the Grade 2 Iselin at Monmouth at 5.

Carvajal met Raymond Mamone, the owner of Imperial Hint, through Durso.

Imperial Hint began his career at Tampa Bay Downs early in 2016, winning a maiden race in his first start and the Florida-bred Sophomore Stakes in his second start. He didn’t fare as well in his next two starts, finishing 12th in both the Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs and the Woody Stephens in New York on Belmont Stakes Day.

But Imperial Hint has steadily gotten better and is now 5 for 9 with just under $200,000 in earnings.

“After he won his maiden, Mr. Mamone got a lot of calls from people wanting to buy him, but he didn’t want to sell,” Carvajal said. “He wanted to have some fun with him.”

Carvajal discovered Imperial Hint while visiting Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, a farm north of Ocala, Fla., owned by Bert Pilcher Jr. In a way, Mamone bought the son of Imperialism from himself.

“Mr. Mamone had a filly at the farm, and I went out to look at her,” Carvajal said. “While I was there, I saw a colt. He was little, but he was well put together, so I asked Bert who it was. He told me Mr. Mamone owned the mare but had given him control of her because they had been having trouble getting her in foal. I called Mr. Mamone, and he ended up buying a colt out of a mare that he owned.”

The General George would be Carvajal’s first graded stakes win. He has won stakes with the New Jersey-breds Dabnabit and Fagedaboudit Sal, who was previously trained by Durso.

Additionally, Carvajal said he recently had picked up a new owner, Anthony Perri, who would soon be sending him horses.