It had just been a while.
The speedy 5-year-old son of Imperialism is usually at or near the front of the pack in any sprint, but in the 6 1/2-furlong test Friday, jockey Javier Castellano was in no rush to get to the front after his mount broke from post 2.
Instead, Imperial Hint relaxed and rated in fourth in the six-horse field, began his move in the turn, angled out at the top of the lane, and hit the front. A late drive from Whitmore proved too late, and Imperial Hint held on to win by a neck.
"He's a really fast horse," said winning trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. "Javier won the (grade 3) Smile (Sprint Stakes with Imperial Hint in 2017), and he took him back a little bit. This morning when I talked to Javier, he said, 'I think I want to take him back and let him relax a bit.'
"Javier is a professional. He rode him perfect. Everything went perfect, to plan."
Recruiting Ready set the pace with fast fractions—:21.85 and :44.52 through a half-mile—with Bobby Abu Dhabi tracking. Recruiting Ready faded harshly soon after, while Bobby Abu Dhabi hung around for the stretch run. But Imperial Hint put his head in front with a furlong to go.
"It worked out perfect," Castellano said. "The two horses went to the lead, and there were very fast fractions. It worked out great. It was a perfect trip. That's what I was looking for today."
Whitmore, who took an inside path through most of the turn after trailing the field in sixth early, rallied on the outside but just missed.
"We had a pretty good trip," said Whitmore's jockey, Ricardo Santana Jr. "There was a lot of speed today, and my horse ran his race. For a moment, I was thinking I could get there, but the other horse, he kept going."
Imperial Hint finished the distance in 1:15.02 on a fast track. Bobby Abu Dhabi held third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Whitmore and 7 3/4 lengths in front of Always Sunshine, who was followed by Recruiting Ready to complete the order of finish.
Westwood was pulled up in the turn by jockey John Velazquez, did not finish, and was transported off the track in an equine ambulance.
"He wasn't going right," Velazquez said. "He hit himself, and he wasn't going right."
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the Bernardini gelding sustained a hoof injury during the race.
"He broke his hoof," McLaughlin said. "He's going to be OK, which is the important thing, but it's going to take some time."