Matthew Schera’s Grade 1 winner Glorious Empire, undefeated in three starts since opening his 7-year-old season this spring at Laurel Park, emerged from his latest work in good order and will ship this week for his Breeders’ Cup debut.
Glorious Empire breezed seven furlongs in 1:27.60 over the all-weather surface Saturday at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. and galloped out one mile in 1:41, trainer James ‘Chuck’ Lawrence II said between Laurel’s races Sunday.
It was the sixth work for the Irish-bred gelding since earning an automatic berth in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) with his front-running 1 ¾-length triumph in the 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer (G1) Aug. 25 at Saratoga.
Lawrence opted to train Glorious Empire up to the Turf, also contested at 1 ½ miles, rather than bring him back in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park, won by Sword Dancer runner-up Channel Maker, who is also bound for the Turf.
“He’s checked all the markers off. Every time he’s worked, he’s worked impressively,” Lawrence said. “Yesterday he went … 11 [seconds] and change the last eighth. He came back and wasn’t blowing. He’s eating up and he’s happy; I can’t do any more than that.”
Glorious Empire ran sixth behind graded-stakes winners Caribou Club and Doctor Mounty and four-time turf stakes winner Phlash Phelps in Laurel’s Henry S. Clark Stakes April 21, his seasonal bow. It was his first race start in seven months and first since joining Lawrence.
From there, Glorious Empire won an optional claimer going about 1 1/8 miles June 28 at Delaware Park, and dead-heated for first in the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green (G2) four weeks later at Saratoga in his prep for the Sword Dancer.
“He dead-heated in the Bowling Green on a soft course, but I think his best racing is when his foot is on top of the ground. We can’t do anything about that, we’ll just give it our best shot,” Lawrence said. “I couldn’t be happier with him. We’ll see how Mother Nature treats us this week. It looks like there’s going to be some rain Wednesday or Thursday so it’s probably going to be soft.”
Julien Leparoux, aboard for each of the past two wins and three of his last four, has the return call on Glorious Empire in the Turf. Lawrence said they will leave Fair Hill Tuesday and arrive at Churchill Downs before training hours Wednesday morning.
Also pre-entered in the Turf are defending champion Talismanic and Enable, back-to-back winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, heading a strong European contingent, as well as Grade 1 winners Sadler’s Joy, Hi Happy and Robert Bruce from the U.S. and Quarteto de Cordas, a Group 3 winner in his native Brazil.
“We’re excited. We’re going over with our guns loaded so that’s a good feeling,” Lawrence said. “I think we’ve got the best of the American group with those three, four horses from America and a strong presence from Europe, and even the Brazilian horse. It should be a lot of fun.”