After romping to victory in the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park last December, Matthew Schera's Glorious Empire was poised to match his Grade 1 credentials against those of many of the very best turf performers in the world in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) over the same course six weeks later.
The Irish-bred gelding, however, never got the chance to clash with the likes of Bricks and Mortar and Magic Wand, the 1-2 finishers, respectively. While preparing for the inaugural running of the accompanying stakes to the $9 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), Glorious Empire sustained a suspensory ligament injury.
||Up the Ante
||Jorge Vargas, Jr.
||Glorious Empire (IRE)
|James Lawrence, II
"That was our whole goal - running in the Pegasus [Turf] - but he came out of the Fort Lauderdale with the start of a tear in the suspensory," said trainer James Lawrence II, whose gelding underwent treatment that included stem cell therapy. "We've done everything we can to make that 100 percent. Knock on wood, it's been very good. He hasn't missed a beat."
Glorious Empire is scheduled to make a highly anticipated return to action in Saturday's $200,000 Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G3) at Laurel Park. The mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds and up will be one of eight stakes worth $1.3 million on the September to Remember card that will be headlined by the $250,000 Xpressbet Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). The 8-year-old gelding had been slated to run at Colonial Downs last month but came down with a virus that delayed his return until Saturday at Laurel Park.
"He missed a week of training. I am playing catch-up because of that. The plan was to run at Colonial and this race. This race we're using as a first race back. He's worked really well," Lawrence said. "A mile isn't his best distance. I think he's a lot better and a mile and an eighth or a mile and three-eighths, but I think it's a good steppingstone back. He's done everything right in his works. He's eating well, looks tremendous."
Glorious Empire won five of his first nine career races in Europe and Hong Kong before going winless in his first seven starts in North America. The well-traveled gelding was claimed for $62,500 by Scherer out a 12th-place finish in a May 7, 2017 optional claiming allowance at Belmont in his seventh North American start. Trained by Carlos Martin, Glorious Empire won at first asking for his new connections in a $50,000 claiming race at Saratoga 10 weeks later. After finishing seventh in the Bernard Baruch (G2) at the Spa, the Irish-bred gelding was pulled up in the Baltimore/Washington International due to pulmonary bleeding.
Transferred to Lawrence, Glorious Empire returned from a seven-month layoff to finish fifth in the Henry Clark at Laurel in April 2018 before scoring by four lengths in a Delaware allowance two months later. He scored his first graded-stakes victory in his next start, holding on to earn a dead-heat win with Channel Maker in the Bowling Green (G2) over a soft Saratoga course. He went on to claim Grade 1 credentials in the Sword Dancer, leading all the way over the same Saratoga course to defeat Channel Maker by two lengths.
"It was a rewarding race for all the work I've put in since I was a little kid. I had my whole family, my wife and my kids, there. It was really rewarding. I'd been touting how talented this horse was, and he finally got to show it," Lawrence said. "When you look back on his career, everybody thought he had talent. They couldn't get everything together on it. Nobody tried this horse long. That's why, in my opinion, I think this race is short for him.
"I'm not saying he's not good enough to win it, but I think he's better at a mile and an eighth or further," he added. "I don't have him 100-percent fit for this race, but with his talent, he could jump up and win it."
The `Win and You're In' Sword Dancer victory earned Glorious Empire a fees-paid berth in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. After showing the way early in the 1 ½-mile stakes over a `good' turf course, he faltered badly and was eased.
"The rider took him right to the rail - I'm not knocking him - and all the winners came from the outside. The course was much heavier down inside and he just didn't handle it. Everybody thought that he had bled, but we scoped him and everything was 100 percent," Lawrence said. "I told Matt the whole next week, `This horse is knocking the barn down.' We usually put our horses away in the wintertime, but we picked out the Fort Lauderdale."
Glorious Empire bounced back from the Breeders' Cup disappointment in dramatic fashion six weeks later, scoring a dominating 2 ½-length front-running victory over Qurbaan in the Fort Lauderdale under Edgar Prado.
Daniel Centeno has been named to ride Glorious Empire for the first time in the Baltimore/Washington International.
Skeedattle Stable's Just Howard won three consecutive stakes over Laurel turf in 2017, capturing the Commonwealth Derby (G3) after scoring back-to-back in the Caveat and Find. The 5-year-old son of English Channel went winless in 10 starts before returning to winning form in the Oceanport (G3) at Monmouth, two starts after finishing third in the Dixie (G2) on the Preakness (G1) undercard at Pimlico.
The Maryland-bred Just Howard finished fourth as the even-money favorite last time out at Laurel.
"I was a little disappointed obviously with his last race. I don't know if he came back a little too quick. He ran such a big race that night at Monmouth, possibly one of his best races. Maybe he regressed a little bit off that race," Motion said. "He seems to have done well since so I think he needs to be in there."
Trevor McCarthy has the mount aboard Just Howard.
Glen Hill Farm's Caribou Club is scheduled to make a run at his fourth career win in a graded stakes in the Baltimore/Washington International. One of the top turf performers last fall and early winter, when he captured the Seabiscuit Handicap (G2) at Del Mar and the Joe Hernandez (G3) at Santa Anita, the 5-year-old son of City Zip, who finished off the board in the six-furlong Al Quoz on the 2019 Dubai World Cup card, is coming off a victory in the West Virginia Speaker's Cup.
Caribou Club, who won the 2016 Laurel Futurity, will be ridden by Feargal Lynch.
Klaravich Stables Inc. and William H. Lawrence's Frontier Market is set to make his stakes debut Saturday after capturing an optional claiming allowance at Saratoga last time out. The Chad Brown-trained 6-year-old gelding finished second in five of his first six starts before winning back-to-back races at Belmont to close out his 5-year-old season. The son of Lemon Drop Kid finished second in a July 27 optional claiming allowance at Saratoga in his 2019 debut.
Julian Pimentel has the mount.
Three Diamonds Farm's Cullum Road, second in the Old Friends at Kentucky Downs last time out, will seek his first stakes victory Saturday. The Michael Maker-trained graded stakes-placed 4-year-old gelding will be ridden by Alex Cintron.
Castleton Lions' Up the Ante, an allowance winner at Saratoga last time out; and Michael Napoli's Macagone, who captured a state-bred allowance at Saratoga last time out; and ABL Stable and partners' Golden Brown, who won three New Jersey-bred stakes from his last four starts; round out the field.