Matthew Schera’s Glorious Empire, left alone on the lead under Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado, kicked away from a talented field full of graded-stakes winners down the stretch to capture the Grade 2, $200,000 Fort Lauderdale by 2 ½ lengths Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Glorious Empire ($17) went in 1:48.44 over a turf course rated good to rebound from a 13th-place finish in the 1 ½-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 3, which snapped a three-race win streak that included graded triumphs in the Sword Dancer (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) this summer at Saratoga.
In a field of 13 – all of which were graded-stakes winners, five of them against Grade 1 company – Qurbaan came with a late run for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Hi Happy. It was another length back to 18-1 long shot Inspector Lynley in fourth with Divisidero fifth.
“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,” winning trainer James ‘Chuck’ Lawrence II said. “We took good care of him and this was the next target for us. As he keeps checking off the list for us, he gets 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.”
A duel up front between Glorious Empire and fellow front-runner Blacktype never materialized as Prado urged his mount to the lead while Tyler Gaffalione settled Blacktype near the back of the pack saving ground. After going a quarter-mile in 23.57 seconds, Prado was able to relax Glorious Empire to a half in 48.13 with Hi Happy, Mr Havercamp and Projected giving closest chase.
Glorious Empire maintained his rhythm through splits of 1:12.57 for six furlongs and 1:36.15 for the mile, extending his advantage on the far turn and opening up even further once straightened for home for his 10th career win, pushing his bankroll to $972,147. Prado had been aboard for an optional claiming win June 28 at Delaware Park.
“The instructions were very easy. 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,” Prado said. “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.”
Lawrence said Glorious Empire could make his 8-year-old debut in the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), the richest grass race in North America, Jan. 26 at Gulfstream.
“Someone called me and said maybe he’d be in line for an Eclipse Award, so we really targeted this [race], as the squeaky wheel gets the oil. I think we’ll definitely think about the Pegasus World Cup, but it’ll all be up to Matt,” he said. “It’s an incredible feeling to have a horse like this and an owner like Matt Schera.”