Imperialism to Make Turf Debut Sunday

Steve Taub's multiple grade II winner Imperialism will make his Southern California turf debut in Sunday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) where he will be reunited with Victor Espinoza.

Earlier this year, Espinoza guided the gray son of Langfuhr  to victories in the San Vicente (gr. II) and San Rafael Stakes (gr. II).

Kent Desormeaux rode Imperialism to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), a fifth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and a fourth-place finish in the Super Derby (gr. II).

"It was a last-minute decision," trainer Kristin Mulhall said. "Kent had already committed to ride another horse (Terroplane for trainer Neil Drysdale) and we couldn't ask him to take off. Victor was open and while we'd have liked to have had Kent, we're very happy to have Victor back."

According to Mulhall, Imperialism was originally scheduled to make his first grass start in the Nov. 28 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) but he emerged from his most recent start in the Super Derby in such great shape, the decision was made to race at Oak Tree.

"He's tearing down the walls he's doing so well," Mulhall said. "So we decided to give him a shot. I don't know if we'll still go in the Hollywood Derby because the plan was to give him a grass race and then get him ready for the Strub series."

Imperialism, who was purchased privately at the beginning of the year, has won five of his 18 career starts for earnings of $547,605. He finished second in his two previous turf starts, including the Mecke Stakes at Calder Race Course last year.