Beverly R. Steinman recap

Limperator © Tod Marks

Flat stakes winner L’Imperator earns first G1 for Hudson River Farms, Kingsley, and visiting jockey Jordan Gainford

After finishing a solid third this spring to stars Rampoldi Plan in the G1 Commonwealth Cup and Abaan in the Carolina Cup novice stakes, Hudson River Farms’ L’Imperator broke through with his first NSA stakes score — and first ever career Grade 1 — with an off-the-pace charge in the inaugural $150,000 Beverly R. Steinman handicap hurdle on Thursday at Aqueduct.

The Steinman, which was postponed from the final day of the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Festival on June 9 when weather forced all races off the turf, drew a well-matched field of eight. L’Imperator, sent off as the $2.30-1 favorite, wasn’t originally going to contest the Steinman at Saratoga due to a foot abscess, according to trainer Arch Kingsley.

On Thursday, the seven-year-old Holy Roman Empire gelding, who won the 2022 G2 Fort Marcy Stakes on the turf at Belmont Park, was in top form. Ridden by Irishman Jordan Gainford, who many steeplechase fans will remember for his Eclipse-Award winning ride aboard Shark Hanlon’s Hewick in the 2022 Grand National at Far Hills, settled toward the rear of the pack during the early going of the 2 3/8-mile handicap as the aforementioned Rampoldi Plan, owned by Leipers Fork Steeplechasers, and Madaket Stables and Paul and Molly Willis’ Jimmy P dueled for the lead the first time around the course.

Rampoldi Plan, under Jamie Bargary, maintained the lead during the second circuit, this time facing a stiff challenge from Bruton Street-US’ Ziggle Pops and Graham Watters. As the duo drew clear of the others by about four lengths heading around the clubhouse turn the final time, L’Imperator and Gainford moved up to fourth, then third, saving ground on the inside and inching closer.

L’Imperator was in striking distance of the determined leaders approaching the final fence and, as the lengthy run around the far turn and into the stretch began, Rampoldi Plan and Ziggle Pops were still inseparable and they refused to give in. Swinging to the outside, L’Imperator dug in and finally caught the leaders outside the eighth pole, edging clear of runner up Rampoldi Plan by two lengths. Ziggle Pops was a head back in third.

If all goes well, Kingsley told NYRA that L’Imperator, an accomplished flat runner who surpassed $600,000 in lifetime earnings with his win, would target the three other Grade 1s on the circuit this year: The A.P. Smithwick and Jonathan Sheppard Memorial at Saratoga this summer, and the Lonesome Glory back at Aqueduct in September.

L’Imperator was second in the Lonesome Glory in 2023, finishing a half-length behind Kingsley stablemate and eventual Eclipse Award winner Merry Maker.

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