By Ed Gray and Brian Skirka For Gulfstreampark.com
Soaring Empire Suited to the One Turn of Saturday’s Hal’s Hope
The competition in Saturday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park will be imposing, but trainer Cam Gambolati is confident that conditions for the one-mile stakes for 4-year-olds and up will suit Soaring Empire.
“It’s going to be a tough race. Rule’s coming back and (Morning Line) just got beat in the Breeders’ Cup,” Gambolati said. “But the good thing is: I think there’s a lot of speed in there, which sets it up from him to make a run.”
Rule, a multiple-stakes winner trained by Todd Pletcher, will be making his first start since finishing third as the favorite in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream on March 20. The Nick Zito-trained Morning Line was caught late by Dakota Phone in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs last November. Soaring Empire, a minor stakes winner, may not have the credentials of the top two contenders, but he does perform best in one-turn races like the Hal’s Hope.
“Everybody thought, with his pedigree, that he’d be a two-turn horse. I’m not saying he’s not a two-turn horse, but I don’t think it’s his best race. I think he’s a chute horse,” Gambolati said. “That’s what he wants – to make that one run; that’s what he has in him, one good run.”
Soaring Empire’s three career victories have come in one-turn races, including a seven-furlong allowance triumph at Gulfstream Park last February that earned him a start in the Florida Derby a month later. Nothing went right for the 4-year-old son of Empire Maker, who finished a very troubled eighth.
“He was a fool in the paddock; he acted up and reared in the gate. Before the gate, he reared up and grabbed a quarter and dropped the rider,” Gambolati said. “He was a total fool, and then he got wiped out – not that he was going to win it.”
Soaring Empire has frequently demonstrated less than model behavior at the starting gate, including in his most recent appearance in the Cigar Mile, for which he was reluctant to load for the Grade 1 one-turn stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 27. Following his hesitancy to enter the starting gate, the Kentucky-bred colt was beaten by less than four lengths in a sixth-place finish that Gambolati attributes to a dislike for being trapped inside.
“Hopefully, we don’t have any problems Saturday,” said Gambolati, whose colt has been schooled in the Gulfstream gate several times. “He’s just a quirky kind of horse. He’s difficult, but it’s one of those things. When a horse is talented like that, you pull your hair out, but I guess you have more patience with a horse like this.”
Between starts in the Florida Derby and the Cigar, Soaring Empire raced only three times: a credible fourth in the Dwyer (G2) at Belmont, a third-place finish behind eventual Travers winner Afleet Express in the Pegasus (G3) at Monmouth, and a fast-finishing victory in the six-furlong Rutgers at Monmouth.
“He’s had some physical problems, nothing serious, just discomfort and everything – that’s why his races were spotty through the summer. He had an abscess when he finished third to Afleet Express. We took our time to clear that up, and then he ran a great three-quarters of a mile – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a horse close from that far back, especially at Monmouth,” said Gambolati, who has 11 horses stabled at Gulfstream.
Jose Lezcano has the mount aboard Soaring Empire in the Hal’s Hope.
Romans-trained Pair Enter Stakes off Top Efforts
Trainer Dale Romans’ barn will be active opening week at Gulfstream, including a pair of runners in the weekend stakes.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Winchill is scheduled to go in Saturday’s Spectacular Bid, exiting an upset allowance win at Churchill Downs last out.
“I expect him to be pretty close to the pace in there,” Romans said. “He really has only run one bad race in his career. In his race on the synthetic, there was a spill in front of him and he had to check.”
Following that trouble-filled trip at Presque Isle, Winchill tired badly in his next start at Churchill, causing Romans to wonder if the rail post position might have contributed to his disappointing race. The son of Tapit came right back at Churchill Downs to score by a length from the far-outside stall in the starting gate.
“We’ll use the Spectacular Bid as a stepping-stone to some of the bigger races later in the meet,” said Romans, who expects Winchill to be well-suited to racing around two turns.
On Sunday, Romans will saddle the Grade 1-placed C.S. Silk in the Marshua’s River. The 5-year-old mare enters the race in career form.
“She really has come into her own starting with the stakes win at Saratoga this summer,” said Romans of C.S. Silk’s overnight-stakes triumph on Sept. 4. “Her last race was very impressive and before that she was second to the best older turf female in America [Proviso].”
C.S. Silk’s most-recent effort came over a yielding Churchill Downs turf. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro won that race by 9 ¾ lengths.
A bullet five-furlong work over the Gulfstream lawn on Monday would seem to indicate that C.S. Silk remains in peak form.
“It was a fast time, but she did it easily,” said Romans, whose filly was clocked in 58 2/5 seconds. “Usually when she works fast, she runs well, so we’re looking forward to her race.”
Get Stormy Fresh for Fort Lauderdale
A little over a year ago, Sullimar Stable’s Get Stormy was coming off four consecutive wins, including a pair of Grade 3 stakes victories.
Trainer Tom Bush, however, decided the son of Stormy Atlantic needed a little time off to mature.
“We didn’t race him last winter because we thought he still needed some time to go through a growth period,” Bush said. “Last year, he only raced six times and is still fresh.”
Get Stormy’s became a Grade 2 winner last summer at Saratoga by taking both the Fourstardave and the Bernard Baruch, but the 4-year-old colt exits a disappointing last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). His first start of 2011 is likely to come in Sunday’s Fort Lauderdale (G3) at Gulfstream.
“He seems like he came out of the Breeders’ Cup fine,” Bush said. “It was a very uncharacteristic race for him – we’re still not really sure why he ran that way. But he’s been down here a month and doing very well.”
In 2009, Get Stormy had his most success racing on the lead. In 2010, the son of Stormy Atlantic showed the ability to rate just off the pace.
“It was by design,” Bush said of his horse’s new running style. “In these races, you don’t really want to be out on the lead every time if you don’t have to be.”
Memorial Tonight for Jockey Benny Green
There will be a memorial this evening for former jockey Benny Green, who recently passed away at the age of 57.
The memorial will be held at Kingdom Hall on Orange Drive in Davie at 7 p.m.
Green, a native of New York, rode throughout the east coast, including Gulfstream, Finger Lakes, Tampa and Calder after riding as an apprentice in New York. He also rode the multiple-stakes winner Sunny Prospector. Green is survived by a son, Benjamin.