It’s a tad early to be thinking Gulfstream Park Championship Meet, what with the Breeders’ Cup World Championships scheduled at their sister track 10 days from now but there is winter news to share.
A suspensory injury kept Matthew Schera’s Grade 1 winning Glorious Empire out of the inaugural $7 million event in 2018 but his connections are hoping to be there for the second edition come late January.
Trainer James ‘Chuck’ Lawrence II said the 1 3/16-mile Pegasus Turf for 3-year-olds and up, won by 2019 leading Horse of the Year contender Bricks and Mortar, on the barn’s schedule as their primary winter target.
“The Pegasus is still our main goal–if he jumps back up to that status again,” Lawrence said. “That’s the goal right now and we’ll see how he does.”
Glorious Empire is winless this year. He was off the board as the favorite in the one-mile G3 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup Sept. 21 at Laurel Park, his first race in over nine months. And last out he was fifth in Belmont’s G3 1 1/8-mile Knickerbocker Stakes earlier this month.
Glorious Empire is looking to regain the form that made him an Eclipse Award finalist in 2018 for champion male turf horse after winning four of six starts and over $760,000 in purses, including the Sword Dancer (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga.
Glorious Empire finished the year with a convincing triumph in the G2 Fort Lauderdale over the Hallandale course, beating five Grade 1 winners and eight multiple graded-stakes winners in the process. But the victory was costly.
Glorious Empire came out of the race with a tear of the right front suspensory ligament. He underwent minor surgery Jan. 5 and a stem cell infusion to promote healing. His recent return to the races left something to be desired.
“He ran the other day and we weren’t sure what happened,” Lawrence said. “He scoped good. He’s come back from the injury and you can tell from the works that I’ve been a second or two slower with him. Maybe I just didn’t have him tight enough.”
Lawrence said the suspensory is not an issue now and he is looking ahead to a possible return trip to Gulfstream for the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale Dec. 14 at 1 1/8 miles, serving as a bridge race to the Pegasus. The G3 11-furlong Red Smith at Aqueduct is also being considered.
“We scanned his suspensory and it’s 100 percent,” said Lawrence. “Whether we do the Red Smith or Fort Lauderdale, we’ll leave that up to him.”