By Tod Marks
The seven-year-old French-bred son of Holy Roman Empire went from maiden hurdle winner in May to a graduate of a $70,000 non-winners of two allowance in Wednesday’s featured Saratoga steeplechase.
Owned by Ed Swyer’s Hudson River Farms and trained by Arch Kingsley, whose relationship with Swyer goes back to his NSA riding days, L’Imperator has made the successful transition from flat, where he was a graded stakes winner on the turf of nearly $400,000.
On Wednesday, L’Imperator, with Stephen Mulqueen aboard, was content to sit near the rear of the six-horse field alongside his Hudson River Farms’ stablemate Modus Operandi (trained by Keri Brion), as Merriebelle Stable’s Beat Le Bon raced loose on the lead, dominating by as much as 15 lengths.
With a little more than a quarter mile to go in the 2 1/16-mile contest, L’Imperator began his advance, moving up to third, and taking aim at Beat Le Bon, who continued to maintain his advantage. Turning into the stretch, L’Imperator quickly closed in on the tiring leader, drawing away by 8 3/4 lengths. Despite setting those quick fractions and running so far ahead for so long, Beat Le Bon, under Graham Watters, remained 13 3/4 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher, Michael Smith’s Hoffman.
The win was Mulqueen’s fifth, all for Kingsley, and the trainer’s sixth this season.
Racing resumes at Saratoga next Wednesday, Aug. 2, with the Jonathan Kiser novice stakes.