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Soaring Empire Turns Back For Gulfstream Sprint Championship
By Jack Will
Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s 4-year-old colt Soaring Empire appears to have hit his best stride this season after an impressive victory over a strong field in the $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 8, and comes back as the likely choice in Saturday’s $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2) on Saturday.
Jockey Julien Leparoux gets the return call on Soaring Empire for trainer Cam Gambolati in a field of eight drawn for the seven-furlong test as he turns back from the one-turn, one-mile Hal’s Hope in his first start since finishing sixth in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct on Nov. 27..
The form of the Hal’s Hope has been flattered since as runner-up Rule and third-place Morning Line came back to finish third and second, respectively, behind Giant Oak in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Feb. 5 and fourth-place Tackleberry went wire-to-wire to score in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic the week before on Jan. 29.
“He’s worked well and trained great,” said Gambolati recently of Soaring Empire. “The Donn is a very prestigious race, but we felt now was not the time to stretch out to two turns again.” The $190,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase ran twice at the Gulfstream meet last year, winning a seven-furlong allowance race in his 3-year-old debut and eighth in the Florida Derby (G1) behind Ice Box and Pleasant Prince.
Owner-trainer Luis Olivares suggested after the Sunshine Millions that he might wheel 4-year-old Tackleberry back in the Gulfstream Sprint and indeed has entered the son of Montbrook with regular jockey Javier Santiago retained. The Classic victory was Tackelberry’s fifth victory in his last sixth starts, punctuated by his even try in the Hal’s Hope when he got off to a poor start.
Trainer Marty Wolfson sends out a pair of contenders in Gary Barber’s 4-year-old Coffee Boy with John R. Velazquez named to ride and jockey Luis Saez aboard Peachtree Stable’s 4-year-old Gaucho. Coffee Boy makes his first start since capturing the $200,000 Carry Back Stakes (G2) at Calder on July 10.
A son of Yonaguska, Coffee Boy has won three of only five career starts and broke his maiden here by 8 ½ lengths in late January for previous connections prior to a private sale to Barber. Wolfson has said the lengthy layoff was not due to any particular physical problem, but rather going through “a growth spurt and needed time to develop.”
Gaucho is a son of Ghostzapper purchased for $475,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales and won three straight at Calder last summer while working through his conditions before finishing second last out as the favorite in a ‘three other than’ allowance there going 5 ½ furlongs on Dec. 27.
Completing the field for the Gulfstream Sprint Championship are My Purple Haze Stable’s Mannington, Elvis Trujillo; LMR Stable’s Caixa Eletronica, Javier Castellano; Robert Clay’s Mad for Smarty, Paco Lopez; and SIGI Racing’s Guam Typhoon, Julien Leparoux.