Miller doubles up on repeats as Roy H takes Breeders’ Cup Sprint

BC18.Roy H06.11-3-18.SR_LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Peter Miller made Breeders’ Cup history Saturday at Churchill Downs after defending champion Roy H rallied to a convincing 3 1/4-length triumph over the slow-starting Whitmore in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Imperial Hint, runner-up in the 2017 Sprint and the 8-5 favorite on Saturday, finished third.

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Roy H’s victory came a couple of hours after Miller’s Stormy Liberal had successfully defended his title in the Turf Sprint, the Southern California-based horseman becoming the first trainer win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup races with two different horses in the 35-year history of the event. Roy H and Stormy Liberal are both owned in partnership by Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen.

Paco Lopez rode Roy H to victory in the Sprint, giving the journeyman his first ever Breeders’ Cup win. Lopez had lost the mount on Roy H to Kent Desormeaux just prior to the 2017 Breeders’ Cup.

Roy H’s trip on Saturday was reminiscent of the one he parlayed into his one-length victory over Imperial Hint in this race a year ago at Del Mar. Roy H rated just off a rapid early pace set by Promises Fulfilled and forced by Miller’s other entry in the Sprint, Distinctive B. Roy H moved readily to command while kept well out in the track entering the stretch, opened a commanding advantage upon settling for the drive, and was not threatened thereafter.

Whitmore broke slow from his inside post, trailed in the run down the backstretch, advanced near the rail to closer contention entering the stretch before easing out and continuing his rally to finish second. Imperial Hint checked a couple of times in traffic down the backstretch, angled out behind the winner to make a mild run at the top of the stretch but could not sustain the rally, finishing 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third.

Roy H, a 6-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready, returned $7.40 after completing six furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.24.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this horse, words don’t even express my feelings,” Miller said immediately after the race.

“I was a little concerned when he started moving a little early on the turn, because I told Paco it was a long stretch and to make sure he didn’t move too soon,” Miller said. “But he said this horse was just loaded from the moment he stepped on the track and warmed him up. I think the move that sealed it was when [Lopez] saw the horse he had to beat [Imperial Hint] come up inside him, and he made sure that he wouldn’t beat him to the position. Once he got the lead, I looked back and could see nobody was coming and that point I was pretty confident, because I know this horse has a big late kick.”

Miller said the big difference between Roy H’s 2018 campaign and his Eclipse Award-winning season the previous year was the fact he went to Dubai this spring where he finished a game and close third behind Mind Your Biscuits and X Y Jet in the Golden Shaheen.

“It took him a while to get over Dubai and he wasn’t the same horse in the Bing Crosby,” said Miller. “He was stale and flat, so I made some changes. I took him from the second string and moved him back with my first string at San Luis Rey, I changed exercise riders and we also changed jockeys, going back to Paco. It was just the change of pace he needed and it all worked out. I think people were writing him off earlier this year, while building up Imperial Hint. The eastern horses might get the hype, but the western horses get the money.”

Miller did not rule out a return trip to Dubai for either Roy H or Stormy Liberal, both 6-year-old geldings, in 2019.

“Both these horses are very sound, they are easy on themselves, and as long as they enjoy their jobs, like they obviously do right now, we’ll just keep going,” said Miller.

Trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. said he thought Imperial Hint ran well, but that jockey Javier Castellano told him “he was just spinning his wheels” when asked to run.

“It just seems he doesn’t handle Churchill Downs’s track very well,” said Carvajal in reference to the fact Imperial Hint has not finished better than third in three starts under the twin spires.

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