Santa Anita Derby Likely in Imperialism's Plans

Steve Taub's San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) winner Imperialism is headed for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 3, where he will most likely meet up again with runner-up Lion Heart.

Imperialism used a powerful closing kick to defeat Lion Heart by a neck in the San Rafael March 6.

"He's good. A little tired, but not that bad," trainer Kristin Mulhall said. "I think we'll stay here for his next race. He can ship, but he likes the track here so we might as well stay here."

Imperialism was purchased privately for a reported $175,000 before winning the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) in his previous start on Feb. 7. His two graded stakes triumphs moved him to the top of the Southern California sophomore division since arriving from Florida, where he raced 11 times at 2.

Taub said he has turned down several offers to purchase the gray son of Langfuhr  -Bodhavista, by Pass the Tab, including some in the seven-figure range.

"This is so fun," Taub said. "I'm having too much fun to consider selling."

While taking things a race at a time, Mulhall says she believes the colt will have little trouble handling the 1 ¼-mile Derby distance should he make the gate on the first Saturday in May.

"He's got that late running style," Mulhall said. "And you can't rush him. I told Victor (jockey Espinoza) before the race to just break and let him drop back. When he's ready to run, he'll run and not any time before then. That's the kind of thing he'll need in the Derby."

Imperialism has won five of 14 starts for earnings of $287,605. He placed in two Florida stakes before being purchased privately by his current connections.

Grade I winner Lion Heart returned to the track on Wednesday for a light jog Wednesday .The chestnut son of Tale of the Cat--Satin Sunrise, by Mr. Leader suffered his first defeat in the San Rafael, but didn't leave his connections discouraged. He will also most likely be in the gate for the Santa Anita Derby.

"I'm not disappointed," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "These are young athletes and they have to learn. We all have to learn. A loss will teach the horse, teach the rider and teach me. I think now (Lion Heart) will know what it feels like to face the men and knows it's a man's game now, which I don't think he knew before. On the other side of the loss is that he looked strong galloping out. He was back in front easily after the finish line."

Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith own Lion Heart, who has won three of four career starts for earnings of $350,800.

Wimbledon, impressive 2 ¼-length winner of Sunday's Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at odds of 7-1, will make his next start either in the Santa Anita Derby or the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct on April 10, Bob Baffert said Wednesday.

"I'm leaning more towards here," the trainer said. "It may hinge on how Odds On does in the San Felipe."

Santa Anita contributed to this report.

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