Soaring Empire breezed five furlongs in 1:01 flat Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park, and trainer Cam Gambolati confirmed him as a probable starter in the upcoming $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I).
The 1 1/8-mile Donn, contested at Gulfstream, is to be run Feb. 11.
A son of Empire Maker, Ol Memorial Stables and C.E. Glasscock’s 5-year-old Soaring Empire finished fourth Jan. 14 behind Jackson Bend in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III) going one mile at Gulfstream Jan. 14. It was Soaring Empire's first start since winning the Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth Park July 31.
Soaring Empire made a bold bid to the lead in mid-stretch of the Hal’s Hope before giving in under jockey Julien Leparoux, who will have the mount in the Donn.
“His work was fine, just maintenance,” said Gambolati. “His race in the Hal’s Hope wasn’t that bad even though he backed up a little toward the end. It was his first race back after a long layoff and the track was dead that day for some reason. These kinds of horses should run a mile faster than 1:38.
“We had two options with him -- the Donn or the seven-eighths race (grade II Gulfstream Sprint Championship Feb. 18) where you would run against horses that finished second and third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I),” referring to Force Freeze and Jackson Bend. “We think he’ll handle the longer distance now and we’ve had a race over the track. The timing is right to try some of these horses.”
Soaring Empire's drill was the sixth fastest of 11 recorded at Gulfstream Feb. 3.
The field expected to line up for the Donn is coming is led by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford , winner of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) last spring, and Lori and George Hall’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I) victor Ruler On Ice.
Also listed as probable are Flat Out , Hymn Book, Mission Impazible , Redeemed , Sangaree, Trickmeister , and Where's Sterling.
At Palm Meadows Feb. 3, 3-year-old filly Grace Hall, runner-up to Eclipse champion My Miss Aurelia in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), worked a bullet half-mile in :46 3/5 for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
The daughter of Empire Maker won the first three starts of her career before the Breeders’ Cup -- her debut at Delaware Park in late July, the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga in early September, and the Blue Hen Stakes at Delaware Oct. 1. Dutrow has indicated that she could make her 2012 debut in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Feb. 25.
Also notable on the morning tab at Palm Meadows were Lori and George Hall’s 4-year-old Pants On Fire (:48 3/5), Bortolazzo Stable’s 3-year-old Stat (1:00 3/5) and Live Oak Plantation’s 3-year-old Souper Speedy (:52 1/5).
Stat is a roan/gray colt by Unbridled's Song, one of eight sophomores trainer Todd Pletcher has nominated for the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs on the Donn card. Stat won his debut at Belmont Park July 9 and finished second as the favorite in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) Aug. 15 behind Union Rags .