Story by Mike Kane
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021) — Trainer Paulo Lobo wasn’t surprised when the Argentinian-bred Imperador won the G2 $1 million Calumet Turf Cup Saturday at Kentucky Downs. He saw it coming.
Lobo had watched the 5-year-old son of Treasure Beach make progress this year and figured he was ready to turn in a big performance. He did just that, holding off fast-closing Arklow, the hard-luck 2-1 favorite, for his first victory in North America.
Imperador completed the 1 ½ miles with jockey Joe Talamo in 2:25.70 and paid $19.20 to win. Since he is not a Kentucky-bred he was running for a base purse of $550,000. The winner’s share of $317,130 pushed his career earnings to $538,268. He earned a fees-paid berth in the $4 million Longine’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar in November through the “Win and You’re In” program.
This spring, Lobo decided to try added distance and Imperador ran sixth, just three lengths back, in the 1 ½ miles G3 Louisville won by Arklow at Churchill Downs in May. He rallied for second in the 1 3/8 miles G1 United Nations on July 17 at Monmouth Park.
“I was expecting as huge effort,” Lobo said. “He ran good at Churchill, the first time running a mile and a half here in America. He ran very good in New Jersey and he was doing very good for this race.”
Arklow was bidding for his third win in the race. He won in 2018, was second in 2019 and finished first again last year. Reserved early by jockey Florent Geroux, he moved up into contention entering the stretch, but ran into traffic issues. Geroux tried to move him through a hole, but had to briefly steady in mid-stretch. He managed to rally again, but the incident ultimately cost the 7-year-old a chance at victory.
“The horse ran great,” Geroux said. “It was just a tough beat, bad luck. I had a great trip. I was saving ground, he was traveling great. I thought I had the horses measured in front of me. I thought I had the speed turning for home, and those horses came back at us quick. I had to take a hold and come around, and it was too late. The winner went all the way around. If I split horses and get through, they’ll tell me it’s a great ride. I didn’t. I got squeezed, and it’s a bad ride. He’s a horse that always tries hard.”
The Calumet Turf Cup was the second stakes victory of the meet for Lobo and co-owner Alberto Figueiredo, who operates Bonne Chance Farm. On Wednesday, they won a division of the TVG Stakes with the Brazilian-bred In Love.
“We have a very good team behind us here with Paulo and all the crew at his barn who did an excellent job to bring those two horses in top condition,” Figuieredo, 53, said. “And also, all the people in South America deserve some credit as well to develop those horses into being champions. And they’re proving it here. Imagine, we’re bringing three horses and three are stakes winners: Ivar, Grade 1 (2020 Shadwell Turf Mile), Imperador, Grade 2, and In Love wins here. That’s a huge accomplishment for a South American stable with just a couple handful of mares.”
Epic Bromance and Big Dreaming skirmished for the early lead through fractions of 23.75 and 48.60. Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat was in front after a mile in 1:38.60 and held a half-length advantage after 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.31. But Imperador and Glynn County were quickening well off the rail and surged to the front in the stretch. Imperador handled Glynn County and just beat Arklow to the wire. Glynn County finished third.
Talamo aboard for the fourth time on Imperador, said the victory was satisfying.
“Hats off to the horse and to the trainer, Paulo Lobo, for the training job he did,” Talamo said. “I tried to be a good passenger the whole way around there. He settled in good, and turning for home, he had a good turn of foot.”
Lobo said he would train the horse up to the Turf, which he acknowledged will be a stern test.
“In the Breeders’ Cup we are going to be in deeper waters, but this horse I think is peaking at the right time,” he said. “I think he is going to enjoy Del Mar. South American horses also like Del Mar. Let’s see. Let’s see. Let’s hope for the best.”
Lobo said that he, the horse and Talamo got everything right in the Calumet Turf Cup.
“I made the mistake at Churchill. I asked him to put him a little close to the pace,” Lobo said. “Then we changed a little bit in New Jersey. Today, he rode the horse perfectly.”