Matthew Schera's Glorious Empire proved his mettle once before at the sport's highest level, winning the G1 Sword Dancer for trainer James Lawrence. After a 13th-place showing in the Breeders' Cup Turf, run over a very soft turf, the 7-year-old was overlooked in Saturday's G2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes at odds of 7-1 as rain hit the course early in the afternoon. Despite those doubts, the son of Holy Roman Emperor and jockey Edgar Prado snagged the lead out of the starting gate and refused to relinquish it all the way around Gulfstream's turf course, pulling away by as much as four lengths at the top of the stretch and easing up a bit late to cross the wire two lengths to the good. A former claimer, Glorious Empire completed the nine furlongs over good turf in 1:48.44, besting both Qurbaan and Hi Happy at the finish.
“We had a great campaign in Saratoga and went into the Breeder's Cup pretty confidently, but was a little disappointed in our run there, but ultimately just didn't handle the turf,” said Lawrence. “We took good care of him and this was the next target for us, as he keeps checking off the list for us, he takes all the credit. With the one hole today we planned it out where if need be we would sit back in second or third. He's got such a big stride and he's such a big strong horse.”
Prado and Glorious Empire flew out of the gate to lead the 14-horse field, staying three paths off the rail into the clubhouse turn. The pair were extremely quick in the first quarter-mile, especially given the condition of the turf course: the split came in at 23.57 seconds. Prado got Glorious Empire to ease back off the bridle in the second quarter, marking the half in :48.13.
That mid-race breather would prove to be an important advantage rounding the far turn, when Prado simply gave Glorious Empire his cue about 100 yards before any of his rivals. The gelding responded easily, cruising away to lead by four lengths at the head of the lane. Prado flagged his whip in the final sixteenth of a mile just to keep Glorious Empire interested in his task, but the victory was an easy one as the horse galloped under the finish a two-length victor. Qurbaan closed late to get second, while Hi Happy finished third.
“The instructions were very easy,” said Prado. “The horse loves to be on the lead. My only concern was [Blacktype]. If the horse didn't chase me I was able to take a nice, easy lead and try to slow it down and have something left in the end, and that's exactly what happened in the race. He broke sharp, I was able to put him in a good spot, and he was moving easy all the way around. When I asked him he really gave me a good kick. He finished running really strong.”
Bred in Ireland by Patrick Grogan, Glorious Empire was a $27,268 weanling at Goffs, and later a $151,880 yearling at Tattersalls. His career began in Europe with five wins, and he came to the U.S. as a 5-year-old in 2016, and was claimed by Schera for $62,500 in May of 2017. Overall, the gelding's record stands at 10 wins from 25 starts, with earnings just shy of $1 million. The next step for Glorious Empire could well be the Pegasus World Cup Turf inaugural edition at the end of January.
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