02/18/2017 6:52PM

Imperial Hint refuses to surrender lead in General George

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Imperial Hint, ridden by Julian Pimentel, wins the Grade 3 General George by 2 1/4 lengths.

LAUREL, Md. - Imperial Hint, who is small in stature but big at heart, held off even-money favorite Stallwalkin' Dude the length of the Laurel Park stretch to win the Grade 3, $250,000 General George on Saturday. The victory was the first in a graded stakes for Imperial Hint, trainer Luis Carvajal Jr., and owner Raymond Mamone.

Imperial Hint has now won four of his last five races. He scored his first stakes win last time out when he posted an authoritative victory in the Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel.

Imperial Hint, ridden by Julian Pimentel, was a bit slow to get his feet under him at the break of the seven-furlong General George but moved up to take a lead that he would never relinquish. Afleet Willy moved up to press the pace nearing the far turn but couldn't stay with him. Stallwalkin' Dude had direct aim at Imperial Hint the final quarter-mile but couldn't reach him and was defeated 2 1/4 lengths.

Imperial Hint, who dropped from 5-1 to 5-2 late in the betting, paid $7.60 as the second choice. He was timed in 1:21.20 after covering six furlongs in a rapid 1:08.80. In the prior race, the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares, High Ridge Road was timed in 1:22.50.

Never Gone South finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Stallwalkin' Dude and a neck before fourth-place finisher Ocean Knight.

Carvajal discovered Imperial Hint on Shade Tree Thoroughbreds north of Ocala, Fla.,  when Mamone sent him out to look at a filly he owned. Imperial Hint was out of the mare Royal Hint, whom Mamone had owned but given away because she had become difficult to get in foal. He bought Imperial Hint from farm owner Bert Pilcher Jr.

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Imperial Hint has always been a small colt.

"When we were leaving the paddock today, I saw someone look at my horse and say, 'Look how small that one is,' " Carvajal said.

Carvajal is a 44-year-old native of Chile. He worked for Angel Penna Jr. and then was a longtime assistant to the late Robert Durso, who campaigned the $1.7 million earner Frisk Me Now in the 1990's. Like Durso, Carvajal bases his stable at Monmouth Park, where he generally has a 10-horse stable. Carvajal currently has four horses stabled at Parx.

"I am hoping imperial Hint is the horse that puts me on the map," he said. "I would like more horses."