Eclipse finalist Glorious Empire retired
Glorious Empire won the G1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Photo by NYRA.
Matthew Schera’s Maryland-based gelding Glorious Empire, who rose from the claiming ranks to become a Grade 1 winner and Eclipse Award finalist for champion male turf horse in 2018, has been retired from racing at the age of 9.
Glorious Empire left the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. early last month for a farm owned by trainer James ‘Chuck’ Lawrence’s II’s mother in Marshall, Va., located about 90 minutes west of Laurel Park.
“He seems quite happy with his new lifestyle,” Lawrence said. “We just kept him here at the barn and let him down, trying to make up our mind exactly what we wanted to do. For right now we have him turned out down at my mom’s in Virginia with another retiree and they’re loving it.”
Bred in Ireland and raced in Europe and Hong Kong before making his first North American start in the fall of 2016, Glorious Empire had not raced since finishing 11th over a turf course rated good in the Red Smith (G3) Nov. 23 at Aqueduct. He had two subsequent works over Fair Hill’s all-weather surface, the most recent coming Feb. 22.
His recovery from a leg injury delayed Glorious Empire’s 2019 season debut until September and limited him to just three starts, beginning with Laurel’s Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3). Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado was aboard in both the Red Smith and a fifth-place effort in the preceding Knickerbocker (G2) at Belmont Park.
“He just wasn’t showing me the same desire that he had after coming back from the injury,” Lawrence said. “Edgar Prado thought that he was really protecting himself, even though he seemed good. You don’t want to take a chance with a horse that’s won a Grade 1, so we made the decision to let him have a good retirement.”
Glorious Empire also launched his outstanding 2018 campaign and first with Lawrence at Laurel, running sixth in the Henry S. Clark Stakes off a seven-month layoff. He reeled off three straight wins including the Bowling Green (G3) and Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga, then was 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), contested over a bog at Churchill Downs.
Six weeks later at Gulfstream Park, Glorious Empire bounced back with a convincing triumph in the Fort Lauderdale (G2), besting a field of 13 graded-stakes winners, five of them Grade 1. He exited the race with a tear in his right front suspensory ligament and underwent an innovative procedure that included minor surgery and a stem cell infusion to promote healing.
“I’ll tell you what, the Fort Lauderdale was so damn special,” Lawrence said. “Dead-heating in the Grade 3 and then coming back and winning the Grade 1 proved that he was a good horse. He was basically eased in the Breeders’ Cup, and then to come back and win against what was basically a Grade 1 field in the Fort Lauderdale, I thought that was a hell of a feat. He checked a lot of boxes for us.”
Glorious Empire ran for a tag three times in the U.S., the last for $65,000 in a June 28, 2018 victory at Delaware Park. He was offered for $62,500 and $50,000 in back-to-back 2017 starts at Belmont and went unclaimed, though six other horses changed hands.
For his career, Glorious Empire won 10 of 28 starts with three thirds and $977,227 in purse earnings.
“I think of myself as kind of small scale. We keep, on average, about 20 to 24 horses and to get a horse like that is just unbelievable,” Lawrence, a former Grade 1-winning steeplechase rider, said. “It’s just a dream come true.”
Lawrence said after enjoying a well-deserved break, it is possible Glorious Empire could return to Maryland in another capacity, such as a stable pony.
“For right now, the plan is to turn him out down there through October and just let him be a horse and then reevaluate the situation and see which way Matt wants to go. There’s a few different options we could do with him, but for the most part he deserves at least a little bit of a vacation,” Lawrence said. “He loves it. I get reports daily from down there and they tell me he’s just as happy as a clam. It’s really cool.”
Lawrence has an exciting prospect in the barn to help fill the void left by Glorious Empire’s retirement in M and J Racing’s 3-year-old Imagining gelding Dee Jay. Owned by Jay and Darcy Esworthy of Frederick, Md., Dee Jay was beaten 2 ½ lengths when second in his Feb. 22 unveiling at Parx.
“We thought we would win first time out, but he had the one hole and he got stopped three different times and finished second. He’s a really nice horse,” Lawrence said. “He’s different than your average 3-year-old. Whether or not he’s a Bob Baffert or Todd Pletcher [quality] 3-year-old, I don’t know, but in my barn he’s pretty nice.”
Dee Jay has worked three times at Fair Hill since his debut, most recently a six-furlong move in 1:17 over the main dirt track April 4.
“Hopefully we get lucky and get back racing. We’ve got high hopes,” Lawrence said. “The time off has done him a little good. It’s let him grow up a little bit and get him bigger and stronger. You have to keep having positive things out there that keep you getting up every morning and going to the barn. We’re training along with the hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
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