Imperial Hint and Curlin’s Approval earned victories on the July 1 Summit of Speed card at Gulfstream Park that earned them starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November. Imperial Hint’s triumph in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Stakes earned him a berth in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 4 and Curlin’s Approval punched her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint earlier on the card with a win in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes Presented by Hardacre Farm.
Imperial Hint extended his winning streak to four in the Smile Sprint with a dominant 4 ¾-length runaway victory as the overwhelming 3-5 favorite.
The 4-year-old Imperialism colt raced just behind the pace in third early under Javier Castellano and proved much the best when asked to accelerate, surging effortlessly clear to a visually impressive win.
Trained by Luis Carvajal Jr. for owner Raymond Mamone, Imperial Hint improved to 3-for-3 this year by completing the three-quarter-mile race in 1:09.23. He won the Grade 3 General George Stakes on Feb. 18 at Laurel Park in his previous start and, with two straight graded stakes wins, Imperial Hint has established himself as an elite sprinter.
A winner of seven of 11 career starts, Imperial Hint has earned $500,155.
Curlin’s Approval returned to her winning ways in the $250,000, Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes, drawing off from 10 opponents to a 4 1/2-length score.
Happy Alter’s and Bridlewood Farm’s 4-year-old Curlin filly put back-to-back losses behind her and earned a fees-paid trip to the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 4 at Del Mar when she took the seven-furlong Princess Rooney.
After subpar efforts in the Grade 2 Inside Information and Grade 3 Matron Stakes, Curlin’s Approval was sharp Saturday and rated just off the pace set by Kinsley Kisses through a :22.71 quarter-mile and a :45.34 half-mile. With jockey Luis Saez aboard for trainer Marty Wolfson, Curlin’s Approval increased the distance from her to the nearest rival through the stretch. She finished in 1:21.68 on a fast track.
“She had a very good trip. We were right there. I know [Kinsley Kisses] had speed, so the plan was to break and be right there and see what happens. When we came to the stretch, she gave me everything,” Saez said.
“Some people thought she might have been off form, but I thought she needed freshening without sending her out,” Alter said. “We freshened her with light training here. If you look back for this race from her last race, it was almost a month for a breeze. We had all that rain and I didn’t want to risk her even galloping some days, so we were able to catch up with the three sharp breezes and her heart led us here.”
Making her first start since winning the Inside Information on March 18, Distinta stalked the pace before closing for a distant second-place finish, a half-length ahead of late-running favorite Lightstream.
Off at odds of 9-2, Curlin’s Approval paid $11, $6, and $3.60, while Distina returned $9 and $5 and Lightstream brought $2.60.
Curlin’s Approval has now won six of nine Gulfstream starts in her 11-race career. She was bred by Alter in Kentucky, out of the With Approval mare Withmom’sapproval.
Curlin’s Approval gave Wolfson his fifth victory in the Princess Rooney, joining Starship Truffles (2013), Jessica Is Back (2010), Chaposa Springs (1996) and Miss Gibson County (1995).
“She made us proud, like she has in her other graded stakes,” Alter said. “It’s nice to win here, in front of people that we know. I know they’ll be rooting for us when we go to the Breeders’ Cup, too."—Claire Novak