Few maiden winners have garnered the kind of respect Imperial Council has, and the Shug McGaughey-trained 3-year-old will attempt to justify his high regard as a potential Kentucky Derby horse when he makes his long-awaited debut in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park Saturday.
The son of Empire Maker, owned by Sequoia Racing, hasn’t run since Oct. 4 when he broke his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park, covering the seven furlongs in 1:24 3/5. Although he earned only a 78 Beyer speed figure, he impressed many people from a visual standpoint, especially with his smooth, efficient stride and the ease with which he handled good horses such as American Dance, who came back to finish third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II), and Professor Z, who won his next two races impressively.
In his career debut, he was beaten only a neck by leading Kentucky Derby candidate Hello Broadway, while finishing 7 1/4 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher.
McGaughey thought so highly of the colt as a potential Triple Crown horse, he put him away for the remainder of the year following his maiden win and sent him to Payson Park to prepare for his 3-year-old campaign.
Imperial Council has a lot of catching up to, especially coming back in a sprint, where he’ll be facing the speedy Z Day, the Rick Dutrow-trained colt who earned a 93 Beyer figure when breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in December while under the care of Tony Dutrow.
Among the others in the nine-horse field are Primary Witness, who won his career debut at Gulfstream Jan. 14 for trainer Mark Hennig, earning an 83 Beyer; Dueling Alex, who hasn’t run since finishing fourth in the Sapling Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Aug. 31; and Join in the Dance, the Todd Pletcher-trained son of Sky Mesa , who has a fourth in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) to his credit.
In other Kentucky Derby news, Break Water Edison, who was a big disappointment in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II), turned in a sharp five-furlong drill in 1:00 and could seek redemption in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). Well Positioned, another horse who is coming off a disappointing performance, worked the same day in :59 3/5.