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Soaring Empire Looking to Repeat in Hal's Hope
By Leona Velazquez
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Ol Memorial Stable and C. E. Glasscock’s Soaring Empire will try to score back-to-back victories in the $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) Saturday, a feat accomplished only once before when Chatain captured both the 2007 and 2008 runnings. Soaring Empire, a dark bay horse by Empire Maker, won the 2011 running of the one mile dirt event for his trainer Cam Gambolati, and he is looking forward to starting his 2012 campaign in good form.
“We’re looking for a good race from him,” said Gambolati. “It’s not an easy race, with Jackson Bend in there, but we hope he runs a good race.”
Soaring Empire has been extremely consistent for Gambolati, with five victories, three seconds, and two thirds from fourteen starts, but it has not been an easy task.
In his 2011 campaign, he started the year with a solid win in the Hal’s Hope. In that race, he stalked the leader before winning by 1 ¼ lengths under Jose Lezcano. A month later, he returned in the seven furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2). Soaring Empire reared at the start and was forced to race off the pace by a good six lengths. He rallied and finished second by a neck to the multiple-stakes winner Tackleberry.
“I bought him as a yearling and he had some problems, some gate problems and feet problems and they’ve cost him,” Gambolati said. “It cost him the Sprint Championship, when he reared up in the gate. And then he came back and was only beat a neck by Tackleberry.”
He returned March 12 in the one mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), where he again ran a solid second, sitting off the pace, beaten a neck to Tackleberry. Soaring Empire’s next start came on May 30th in the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park. In that race, he lost both hind shoes and finished seventh beaten 11 3/4 lengths.
He returned to form at Monmouth Park on July 2nd in the Grade 3 Salvatore Mile. In that mile event, Soaring Empire raced off the pace, was bumped at the 3/16ths pole, and finished second by three quarters of a length to Kensei.
“He got into a lot of trouble in the Salvatore Mile, but still finished second,” Gambolati said.
But redemption was around the corner. The son of Empire Maker returned on July 31, at Monmouth Park in the $100,000 Majestic Light. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, he raced off the pace in the 1 1/16th mile event and claimed victory by three quarters of a length over Kensei.
After the Majestic Light, Gambolati gave Soaring Empire time off. He has been breezing regularly at Gulfstream Park. His final prep came on Friday, when he worked a half in :47 flat with Julien Leparoux up.“He went well on Friday,” said Gambolati. “He’s quiet on the racetrack. We breeze him in company so he has a target. He gets a lot out of his works. He usually runs good off a layoff too. We’ll probably school him on Wednesday and then he’ll just gallop into the race.”
A good effort from Soaring Empire in the Hal’s Hope could earn him a start in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on February 11.
“Ideally, if he runs good we’d like to run in the Donn,” Gambolati said. “He’s matured now so two turns should suit him, sitting back and making one run. But, we hope he stays together and we’ll take it race by race.”