02/07/2004 12:00AM

Imperialism pops in San Vicente

Imperialism wins the San Vicente Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Imperialism made a quick impression in his California debut on Saturday, scoring his first stakes win in the $150,000 at Santa Anita.

The race marked Imperialism's first start for owner Steve Taub, who acquired the colt privately last month from Florida.

Closing from last in a field of six, Imperialism ($30.20) rallied to the front in the final furlong and won the Grade 2 San Vicente for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths.

Hosco, the even-money favorite and early pacsetter, held second, a head in front of Consecreate. Wimplestiltskin finished fourth, followed by Teton Forest and Number Juan.

Imperialism finished seven furlongs in 1:22.34 under jockey Victor Espinoza.

The San Vicente was Imperialism's first start for trainer Kristin Mulhall. Imperialism was previously trained by Angel Salinas at Calder.

In Florida, Imperialism won 3 of 12 starts, and placed in two stakes at Calder.

"We were looking for a nice solid horse," Mulhall said.

Hosco set early fractions of 22.44 and 44.77 seconds. He led by a length at the eighth pole over Consecrate but offered no resistance to Imperialism.

"He won the race he was in," said Doug O'Neill, the trainer of Hosco.

Imperialism was last until the half-mile pole.

"I was expecting the pace to be much faster," Mulhall said. "I thought he'd be farther back. We thought he'd swing out and make one run and he did."

In the final furlong, Imperialism lugged in when he made the lead, which did not surprise Mulhall.

Imperialism races with a full-cup blinker on his right side and a shadow roll because of a "sunken eye" on his right side that impairs vision, Mulhall said. She added the shadow roll to his equipment on Thursday after he behaved erratically during a training session.

"This was an experiment race with the equipment," Mulhall said.

Imperialism will make his next start in the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes over a mile on March 6. Hosco is likely to stay in sprints, O'Neill said.