Grade 1 winner Glorious Empire is expected to make his first start since a last-place finish in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T) in the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G2T) Dec. 15 at Gulfstream Park.
The 7-year-old gelding worked six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 at Fair Hill Training Center Dec. 6, his third breeze at that distance over the all-weather surface since his Nov. 3 loss in the Breeders' Cup.
"(Trainer James L. Lawrence II) says he's doing amazing," owner Matt Schera said. "The Fort Lauderdale is a go."
Glorious Empire won the Sword Dancer Stakes (G1T) and finished in a dead heat for first in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2T), both at Saratoga Race Course, but then set a relatively fast pace of :24.65 and :49.11 on "good" turf before fading to 13th in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
"The Breeders' Cup squashed our dreams," Schera said. "The pace and racing on the deep rail worked against us. Not running between the Sword Dancer (Aug. 25) and the Breeders' Cup was probably a mistake, but that's easy to say after the fact."
The timing of the Fort Lauderdale gives Glorious Empire one last chance to pad his Eclipse Award résumé before 2018 comes to an end. So far in 2018, the Irish-bred Holy Roman Emperor gelding has three wins in five starts with earnings of $653,750 during a year in which the male turf division has lacked a standout. Aside from Glorious Empire, leading Eclipse Award candidates Channel Maker, Robert Bruce, Stormy Liberal, Expert Eye, Raging Bull, and Catholic Boy all have one grade 1 win on turf.
"When you look at it, there's not a lot separating the horses in the division," said Schera, a resident of Greenwich, Conn.
Schera said Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado will be reunited with Glorious Empire in the Fort Lauderdale. Prado was aboard for the gelding's four-length victory June 28 in a Delaware Park allowance/optional claimer. Julien Leparoux rode him in the Breeders' Cup Turf, Sword Dancer, and Bowling Green.
Regardless of what happens in the Fort Lauderdale, Schera said he probably will not enter Glorious Empire in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1T) at Gulfstream Jan. 26 because of the $500,000 entry fee.
"I'm not sure if the financial parameters of the race make sense for a horse like him," Schera said.
Schera mentioned the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3T) at Sam Houston Race Park Jan. 27 as a possible alternative to the Pegasus if Glorious Empire turns in a strong effort in the Fort Lauderdale.