Ron Paolucci, Glenn Ellis and Imaginary Stable’s Imperative has struck again for California-based trainer Bob Hess, Jr. In January, the 7-year-old son of Bernardini surprised in the $ 400,000 Poseidon Stakes on the Pegasus World Cup undercard at 7-1. This Saturday, at odds of 5-1, Imperative and Javier Castellano came flying down the center of the sloppy Charles Town stretch to win the G2 Charles Town Classic by a neck over Matt King Coal, covering 1 1/8 miles on the three-turn course in 1:53.05. This is the third win in the Charles Town Classic for Castellano.
“Plenty of pace; we had a smooth trip,” Hess said. “I thought we might be in trouble going into the far turn and I thought he was really wide but I didn’t know how much horse he had left. Javier found that extra gear and when he got to the front, he might have hung a touch but then kind of surged again, so it was exciting. Very exciting.”
Breaking near the center of the eight-horse field, Imperative was shuffled back to near-last early on as race favorite Stanford and longshot Cautious Giant dueled for the lead. Stanford was the quickest out of his inside stall, and was initially tracked by Matt King Coal in second, but Cautious Giant made a sweeping move the first time around the far turn to pressure the pace. After a quarter in 23.43 seconds, Cautious Giant laid over on Stanford against the rail, making the space just a bit tight for John Velazquez and last year’s Charles Town Classic winner.
Velazquez responded by taking back, and angling Stanford to the outside of Cautious Giant, allowing the longshot to take the field through a half-mile in 47.38 seconds. Matt King Coal kept track of the leaders in third, followed by Sunny Ridge, Imperative and War Story in a three-wide line across the track as they wrangled for good position in the final half-mile.
Approaching the far turn for the second and final time, Cautious Giant dropped out of the race to give the lead back to Stanford. Matt King Coal was right there along his outside to keep the pressure up, drawing even with Standford near the head of the lane. Both Imperative and War Story were making wide bids and appeared to have a lot of horse left entering the stretch.
Stanford was the first to give in and drop back, leaving Matt King Coal on the lead. But coming quickly was both Imperative and War Story. War Story, between horses, lost his never a bit at the sixteenth pole, but Matt King Coal kept on fighting with the fast-closing Imperative. As the wire flashed overhead, Imperative had just gotten his neck in front of Matt King Coal, and a re-rallying War Story had to settle for third. Longshot Bodhisattva closed from well back of the field to finish fourth.
“We’re now 1 for 2 here,” said trainer Bob Hess. “I love the surface. I don’t mean wet or not wet either. It looks like a really kind surface and the banks on the turns are superb and the best horse won. I think a big key was Ron (Paolucci) allowing us to take him Keeneland and train him on the synthetic there which is a really kind surface, which is what this horse needs. He needs Gulfstream, he needs these soft east coast tracks.”
Interestingly, it was Stanford who finished a close nose second to Imperative in his Poseidon victory at Gulfstream Park in January.
“The big key for him is getting him away from California,” said owner Ron Paolucci. “It’s hard. It’s not a good surface for him to train on. He runs there on all heart. I think we’re going to have a good campaign with him this summer out here on the east coast and I think if you look at every race he’s run outside of California, it’s been dynamite. We’re thinking about the Met Mile. Giving him a little time in between. Looks like there would be a lot of speed in that race. But we’ll see. That’s the initial plan. “
Bred in Kentucky by Darley and Glencrest Farm, Imperative was a $ 325,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by John Ferguson. He began his career in the Darley colors, but last year Paolucci purchased him privately from then-owner JK Racing Stables as a back-up horse for War Story in the Pegasus World Cup. Since then, Imperative has been under the care of Bob Hess, Jr., who has two wins and an off-the-board finish in the Santa Anita Handicap with the older gelding. Overall, Imperative boasts a record of 6-8-3 from 38 starts, with career earnings of just under $ 3 million.
“The whole life is about family and my dad (Ron Paolucci, Sr.) is not doing real well and I wish he could be here,” Paolucci continued. “That’s the toughest part. I know he’s watching from home. I know how proud he is of me. He always said that fat little kid from Stow, Ohio would make something of himself and, like most kids, all you want to do is please your parents and my dad gets so much joy out of the races.”
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