A thrilling inaugural edition of the $ 400,000 Poseidon Stakes culminated in a stretch duel between heavyweights Imperative and Stanford; the 7-year-old Imperative just got by the two-year younger Stanford at the wire to be declared the winner in a photo finish. Owned by Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stables, the son of Bernardini covered nine furlongs over Gulfstream’s fast main track in 1:48.97. Jockey Antonio Gallardo rode a perfect race on Imperative for trainer Bob Hess, keeping him in range of the leaders early on.
Ranger in Paradise broke very sharply from the inside, striking the lead in the short run to the first turn. Stanford, generally a frontrunner, was forced out wide by that leader around the turn, as was Hy Riverside in third. That left room for Imperative, hustled from the gate by Gallardo, to secure a solid position along the inside rail in fourth. As Ranger in Paradise continued to speed through the first quarter, both Stanford and Hy Riverside were able to angle back toward the rail as they let him move away on the lead.
Down the backstretch Ranger in Paradise first took a 2 1/2-length lead, clocking the first quarter mile in a solid :23.83, but then he slowed down to mark the half in :48.10. That attempt to give his horse a breather, hopefully catching the other jockeys unawares, would have been more effective for rider Luis Colon had his horse not again tried to blow the turn at the half-mile pole.
As Ranger in Paradise got out badly, John Velazquez threaded the needle with Stanford and squeezed through along the rail to get perfect position at the top of the far turn. Hy Riverside stuck right alongside him, but Imperative was beginning to threaten from his cozy spot in fourth position.
Stanford had the lead making the turn for home, and Hy Riverside began to drop out of it. Imperative took up the challenge on Stanford almost immediately, giving the heavy favorite no time to take a breath before he was again engaged by a rival. Those two were a head apart at the top of the stretch, and they battled for every single inch grinding toward the wire.
In the final 100 yards, Imperative could see the wire and dug just a bit deeper, dropping his belly closer to the dirt to give every ounce of effort in his body. Just as the wire flashed ahead, Imperative reached even terms with Stanford. The photo finish showed that Imperative had the advantage by a nose, and Stanford had finished second. Madefromlucky, stablemate of Stanford, finished third, with Papa Zulu checking in fourth. Hy Riverside was fifth.
Bred in Kentucky by Darley and Glencrest Farm, Imperative was a $ 325,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase. The gelding has gotten stronger with age, improving his quality each year. Though Imperative had won just a single graded stake, the G2 Charles Town Classic in 2014, he had continued to finish in the top placings in graded company throughout his career. Overall, Imperative boasts a record of 5-8-3 from 36 starts, with earnings of over $ 2.2 million.
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