Soaring Empire Breezes for Likely Start in Donn Handicap
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Ol Memorial Stables and C.E. Glasscock’s 5-year-old Soaring Empire breezed five furlongs in 1:01 flat Friday morning at Gulfstream Park, and trainer Cam Gambolati confirmed him as a probable starter in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) to be run Saturday Feb. 11 at 1 1/8 miles.
A son of Empire Maker, Soaring Empire finished fourth Jan. 14 behind Jackson Bend in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) going one mile over the track in his first start since winning the Majestic Light Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park on July 31. He made a bold bid to the lead in mid-stretch of the Hal’s Hope before giving under jockey Julien Leparoux, who will have the mount in the Donn.
“His work was fine, just maintenance,” said Gambolati Friday morning. “His race in the Hal’s Hope wasn’t that bad even though he backed up a little toward the end. It was his first race back after a long layoff and the track was dead that day for some reason. These kinds of horses should run a mile faster than 1:38.
“We had two options with him -- the Donn or the seven-eighths race (Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) on Feb. 18) where you would run against horses that finished second and third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1),” referring to Force Freeze and Jackson Bend. “We think he’ll handle the longer distance now and we’ve had a race over the track. The timing is right to try some of these horses.”
In addition to Soaring Empire the field expected to line-up for the Donn is coming up very strong led by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford, winner of the Preakness Stakes (G1) last spring, and Lori and George Hall’s Belmont Stakes (G1) hero Ruler On Ice.
Also listed probable are Preston Stable’s Flat Out, Stuart Janney III’s Hymn Book, Twin Creek Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible, Jay Em Ess Stable’s Redeemed, Godolphin Racing’s Sangaree, Pegasus Holding Group and IEAH Stable’s Trickmeister and Frank Calabrese’s Where’s Sterling.
Grace Hall Drills ‘Bullet’ Half-Mile at Palm Meadows
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable and Elkstone Group’s 3-year-old filly Grace Hall, runner-up to Eclipse champion My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, worked a ‘bullet’ half-mile in 46 3/5 Friday morning at Palm Meadows for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
The daughter of Empire Maker won the first three starts of her career before the Breeders’ Cup -- her debut at Delaware Park in late July, the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in early September and the Blue Hen Stakes at Delaware on Oct. 1. Dutrow has indicated that she could make her 2012 debut in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) here on Feb. 25.
Also notable on the Friday morning tab at Palm Meadows were Lori and George Hall’s 4-year-old Pants On Fire (48 3/5), Bortolazzo Stable’s 3-year-old Stat (1:00 3/5) and Live Oak Plantation’s 3-year-old Souper Speedy (52 1/5).
Stat is a roan/gray colt by Unbridled’s Song and one of eight 3-year-olds trainer Todd Pletcher has nominated for the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) to be run at seven furlongs on the Donn Day card on Sat., Feb. 11. Stat won his debut at Belmont Park on July 9 and finished second as the favorite in the Saratoga Special (G2) on Aug. 15 behind emerging star Union Rags.