Smile Sprint: Imperial Hint In ‘Perfect Condition’, Awesome Banner ‘Doing Really Well’

Hoping to take the star of his small stable to the Breeders' Cup, trainer Luis Carvajal has been prepping 4-year-old Imperial Hint for next Saturday's G3 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream Park. A “Win and You're In” race for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, the Smile will mark Imperial Hint's first start since the Feb. 18 General George Stakes at Laurel Park.

That victory, an easy score over even-money choice Stallwalkin Dude, earned the son of Imperialism an invitation to the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, but drf.com reports Imperial Hint developed a “one-day fever” after his overseas flight and was forced to scratch from the race. Carvajal stayed with the horse in Dubai for another month, giving him ample time to recover.

“It seems like taking the whole month off and keeping him over there, giving him that kind of rest, really was a big help,” Carvajal said. “He shipped back to Parx in perfect condition and just wanted to get back into training right away. He's done super ever since, I love the way he's been working, and I'm really looking forward to having an opportunity to get back to south Florida again.”

Imperial Hint will be ridden in the Smile by top jockey Javier Castellano, and enters the contest with a three-race winning streak.

Jacks or Better Farm's Awesome Banner turned in a bullet workout at Laurel Park Friday in preparation for a scheduled start in the $250,000 Smile Sprint (G3) on the July 1 Summit of Speed card at Gulfstream Park.

The multiple graded-stakes winner worked a half-mile handily from the gate in 47.80 seconds, the fastest of 34 workouts recorded at the distance.

“We're prepping him to run in the Smile. This morning was his last work. He worked a minute flat last week going five-eighths of a mile. He does his best work out of the gate,” trainer Ken Decker said. “We kind of figured if the track was good this morning that he'd put in a good work, and 47-and-change is a good work.

“He's a little bit funny. You know how some of these horses are – they've got their little quirks and that's kind of him. He does his best works out of the gate and going into this kind of race we want to make sure we cover all our bases,” he added. “It was a nice work, and he cooled out good. We'll catch the van and see how we do. He's doing really well.”

Awesome Banner launched his career at Gulfstream Park in 2016 with three straight victories, including triumphs in the Hutcheson (G3) and Swale (G2). The son of Awesome of Course has registered five stakes victories over the Gulfstream track. He finished second in the $150,000 Carry Back (G3) on last year's Summit of Speed card.

Most recently, Awesome Banner finished a sharp third at Pimlico in the May 20 Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3), won by a half-length by Whitmore over A.P. Indian. Awesome Banner was just a head behind the runner-up.

Decker said Awesome Banner is scheduled to ship to Gulfstream Wednesday morning.

The Smile Sprint and the co-featured $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2) are designated Breeders' Cup ‘Win and You're In' races.

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