Glorious Empire won five of nine starts in Europe, but after winning just one of his first 10 races in North America, it seemed as though the son of Holy Roman Emperor would never realize his full potential.
Claimed out of his seventh North American start for $62,500, the Irish-bred gelding won at first asking for owner Matthew Schera in a $50,000 claiming race at Saratoga but went to the sidelines two starts later when he was eased in the 2017 Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G3) at Laurel Park due to pulmonary bleeding.
Saturday, Glorious Empire will be the marquee attraction at Laurel Park, where the 8-year-old gelding will seek his fourth graded-stakes win since being transferred of James Lawrence II's stable at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, MD.
“The first couple times I worked him, I told Matt, 'He's one of the best horses I've ever had in my barn or he's the best horse,' He was just unbelievable when he worked. He'd work [five furlongs] in a minute, gallop out in 1:12 and just keep on going,” Lawrence said. 'He's a phenomenal horse. There's so much substance to him. He's just a beautiful horse and such a nice mover.”
After finishing sixth in last year's Henry Clark at Laurel Park off a seven-month layoff Glorious Empire won an optional claiming allowance at Delaware Park, the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green (G2) in a dead heat with Channel Maker, and the 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga.
“He came with the reputation of being kind of hot to train and particularly in his racing and he would bleed. We've done a lot of things to relax him, taking him cross country a few days a week, which we have the luxury at Fair Hill to train out back,” Lawrence said. “We'd ship him to Laurel a few times and paddock school him – just different things to get to understand him and find out what he liked and what he didn't like. It just all came together with a dream-come-true season – to win those two Grade 2s and the Grade 1 at two of the biggest racetracks in the country.”
Glorious Empire was eased after setting the early pace in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) over a 'good' turf course at Churchill Downs but appreciated the firmer going at Gulfstream Park to capture the Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream to finish off his 2018 campaign. He sustained a suspensory injury while preparing for a start in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Jan. 26 and will make his first start in the Baltimore/Washington Invitational off the layoff.
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