LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Friday at the Breeders' Cup could not have gone much better for the Parx contingent at Churchill Downs when the brilliant Jaywalk dominated her race and should have clinched an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly for 2018.
Saturday, did not go nearly as well. The wonderful Imperial Hint, also at the Bensalem-based Parx like Jaywalk, was favored in the Sprint, but never really got into the race, the surface at Churchill apparently his kryptonite. Defending champion Roy H, who ran down Imperial Hint to win last year's Sprint, dominated this year's race and won easily. Imperial Hint had to settle for third, 5 lengths back.
In three races at Churchill, Imperial Hint has finished 12th, sixth and third. In his other 15 races, the 5-year-old horse has won 12 times.
"Before we had a doubt if he liked the track or not,'' Imperial Hint's trainer Luis Carvajal said. "He seemed like he handled it well in the morning. (Jockey) Javier Castellano said he was trying, but when he asked him to run, he was spinning wheels. He ran well and I'm proud of him, but it seems like he doesn't handle Churchill Downs track very well.''
Castellano agreed with the trainer's assessment.
"He proved today he doesn't like this track,'' the jockey said.
On his best day, Imperial Hint is as fast as any horse in America. Unfortunately, the terrific little horse has never even had a good day at Churchill Downs.
Always Sunshine, who is also stabled at Parx in Ned Allard's barn, was sent off at 52-1 odds in the Sprint. Frankie Pennington, who is about to win the Parx jockey's title for the fifth straight year, had Always Sunshine close to extremely fast fractions early, but the horse could not keep up and finished last.
Discreet Lover, the $10,000 purchase with $1.3 million in earnings, raced against some of the world's very best horses in the $6 million Classic. Coming off the race of his life for Parx-based owner/trainer Uriah St, Lewis when he won the Sept, 29 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Discreet Lover just did not have it, finishing eighth.
That was almost certainly the last race of Discreet Lover's 45-race career as St. Lewis said he is close to a deal to send the horse to stud for 2019 and beyond. Regardless of the final chapter, it was some incredible story for one of the wonderful people on the Parx backstretch who went against conventional wisdom with his horse of a lifetime and turned out to be exactly right.
Accelerate won the Classic, ending an 0-for-44 Breeders' Cup disaster for trainer John Sadler and setting up a fascinating debate for 2018 Horse of the Year.
When Justify crossed the finish line first in the Belmont Stakes and won the Triple Crown in June, nobody even considered the possibility of a debate. But Justify never ran again and was retired.
Accelerate won the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap in March, the Grade I Gold Cup in May and then dominated the Grade I Pacific Classic in August, sweeping the three biggest races in Southern California for older horses. Then, he won the Grade I Awesome Again and just beat the best field of horses assembled all year in the Classic.
It is some resume for a horse that raced from February to November. Justify only raced from February until June. The Triple Crown is the Holy Grail, but the Classic is absolutely a championship race. Be a fascinating debate until the votes are cast next month.