Imprimis Puts Orseno Back in the Spotlight

Joe Orseno | Ryan Thompson


You have to have the right horses, manage them properly and get them to the big races when they are at their best.

Those are the sentiments of Classic-winning trainer Joe Orseno, who will saddle Saturday's GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint morning-line co-second choice Imprimis (Broken Vow).

It's been some time, 20 years to be exact, but this isn't Orseno's first trip to the Breeders' Cup with a live runner. Far from it.

Back-to-back wins at the 2000 Breeders' Cup-held then as just a one-day, blockbuster eight-race program-put an exclamation point on a career year for the now 65-year-old.

“That year, we won two Breeders' Cups, the Preakness, and a bunch of Grade Ones, and I just thought it was gonna happen every year,” said Orseno, a former private trainer for Stronach Stables between 1998-2002.

“It's not like I forgot how to train in the last 20 years,” he added with a laugh. “You have to have the horses.”

Orseno certainly had the horses on that aforementioned Championship Saturday at Churchill Downs. Perfect Sting and Macho Uno reeled off dramatic wins in consecutive fashion beneath Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, providing Orseno with a rolling double in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile, respectively. He also tightened the girth on Red Bullet to an upset victory over GI Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus earlier that spring in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

“That was a great day, obviously, for myself, the owners and my whole team, and a few of those guys are still with me,” Orseno reflected of the 2000 Breeders' Cup.

“I thought I should've won one the year before and was very disappointed that Perfect Sting had a rough trip. I was like, 'Geez, is this really ever going to happen for me?' Then when she won, it was just like a big weight was lifted. We won a Breeders' Cup! Wow! Then to come back and win the very next one. What can you say? It was just a great day. Two very good horses. And you know what? We had 'em ready to run that particular day. That's what it's about.”

Orseno looks like he has another one ready to run Saturday.

A punchless sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita–Orseno's first starter at the Championships since 2002–Imprimis underwent a pair of throat surgeries to repair a breathing issue this off season.

“Gene Recio had him on the farm in Ocala and started to hear a little noise once he was back in training,” Orseno said. “We went ahead and scoped him and saw that the first surgery was starting to fail a little bit. We walked him across the street to Equine Performance Center and did another surgery in February. This one worked and he hasn't looked back since. It 100% has helped him.”

Imprimis crossed the wire a dominant winner in his comebacker for his 6-year-old debut, but had his number controversially taken down to third for causing interference in the stretch in Saratoga's GIII Troy S. Aug. 8.

“Take the human aspect out of it as far as taking him down, the horse ran his race and he couldn't have run any better off a 10-month layoff,” Orseno said. “I sent him there to Saratoga and he ran a great race, and I was very proud of that.”

The gelding got his chance at redemption and backed up that strong performance with a visually impressive, come-from-behind score in the 'Win and You're In' GIII Runhappy Turf Sprint S. over the soft going at Kentucky Downs last time Sept. 12.

He's earned Beyer Speed Figures of 101 and 102 in his two starts this year. Irad Ortiz, Jr, a perfect three-for-three in the irons aboard Imprimis, is booked again to ride this weekend.

Imprimis's six-race campaign in 2019, led by a course-and-distance tally in Keeneland's GII Shakertown S., included a trip to Royal Ascot, where he finished sixth in the G1 King's Stand S.

“This year we chose to do a different path. He didn't run as much and he's very fresh,” Orseno said. “He was getting little to no air [last year], and he still tried every single time.”

Produced by the Put It Back mare Shoppers Return, Imprimis was purchased privately by Mike Hall and Sam Ross's Breeze Easy LLC after beginning his career with a pair of wins for breeder Craig Wheeler and trainer Tim Hills at the age of four.

The Florida-bred's resume also includes wins in the 2018 Jim McKay Turf Sprint S. at Pimlico and the Wolf Hill S. at Monmouth, and the 2019 Silks Run S. at Gulfstream. Hailing from the family of GISWs Miss Shop (Deputy Minister) and Power Broker (Pulpit), he sports a record of 15-8-0-2 and career earnings of $759,948.

“When he's right, he brings his 'A' game,” Orseno said. “I'm going in there knowing that my horse is as good as I can have him and as good as he could be. He's ready.”

A native of Philadelphia, Orseno grew up not far from the now defunct Garden State Racetrack and went to the races with his father as a kid. He paved his own way into the business, taking out his trainer's license in 1977. “When I was in high school, I played sports. I didn't grow up around the horses,” Orseno said.

Based year-round at Gulfstream Park with 40 stalls, Orseno is closing in on 2,000 victories and $50 million in career earnings. Since re-opening his stable to the public in 2002, his runners have grossed seven figures in earnings in every season bar three. Other standouts campaigned by Orseno include GISWs: Golden Missile, also a longshot third in the 1999 GI Breeders' Cup Classic, Collect the Cash, Roaring Twenties and Tap to Music.

“I've always been a hands-on trainer,” Orseno concluded. “The game's changed a lot since I first came in. [Late trainer] Mickey Crock took me from the ground up and taught me the right way. The horsemen way. I always say, 'There's horse trainers and there's horsemen.' I always considered myself a horseman.”

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