Taking Stock: From Retired Bleeder to Grade I Winner


Glorious Empire | Sarah K. Andrew


“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wrote the poet Emma Lazarus. Those words from a sonnet were later inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and are synonymous with the ethos of the United States of America. They are applicable to racing here as well. The U.S. is still the only major racing country that allows race-day Lasix, a diuretic that helps control exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), or bleeding in the lungs and airways. As a result, bleeders from abroad frequently find second opportunities here, and one of them, Glorious Empire (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), recently won the Gl Sword Dancer S. at Saratoga after a circuitous journey from Europe to Hong Kong and back to Europe and then, finally, to the U.S. It was the 7-year-old gelding's first win at the highest level, and the race was also the first Grade l win for owner Matt Schera and trainer James “Chuck” Lawrence ll.

Europe and Hong Kong

By Holy Roman Emperor (Ire) from Humble and Proud (Ire), by Pivotal (GB), Glorious Empire first bled in Hong Kong after he was sold to trainer Caspar Fownes and the powerful Siu family from Ed Walker's yard in the U.K., where he'd won four of six starts at six, seven, and eight furlongs at ages 2 and 3 and was “progressing nicely,” according to Walker. The trainer said he was a big, “gorgeous, and massively talented” horse with “untapped potential” who'd been brought along slowly and gently with a view to the future. “It's a pretty sad story, really, from my point of view,” Walker said. “The guy who sold him to the Sius is still a great client and a friend of mine, and he felt it was good business to sell to the Sius, which introduced me to the Sius, who are now my biggest owners–so every cloud has a silver lining–but at the time I was suicidal at him leaving the yard.”

Glorious Empire last ran for Walker in mid-August of 2014. Renamed Quaternion Eagle in Hong Kong, the gelding made his debut for Fownes at Sha Tin in April of 2015, in a 12-runner sprint at 1200 meters that he won by a neck.

Trouble Lurking

In December of 2014, long before his Hong Kong debut, Quaternion Eagle had bled from both nostrils in a barrier trial. Hong Kong has a strict policy against bleeders and an even stricter zero tolerance for race-day medications, so when the gelding bled from both nostrils on his second start in the territory, in May of 2015, he was retired.

“He had a really bad, really bad double hemorrhage,” Fownes recalled. “We have in Hong Kong, basically, a two-strike penalty and there's automatic retirement. They changed that to three [strikes] but there's not many that go on with it. Normally, when they bleed a second time, the vets recommend that they be retired. We don't have Lasix over here. We're not allowed to work our horses or race on Lasix as they do in the States. We're pretty limited to what we can treat them with.” Treatment options are essentially supplements, “a shot of Dex[amethasone] five clear days out,” and keeping water away from the horse on race day to dehydrate him, Fownes said.

Fownes said the Siu family is “among the top two” owners in Hong Kong. “Mr. Siu. He's got his daughter owning horses, his two sons own horses, he himself owns. They'd have 20-plus horses between the family. They don't mess around. They buy the cream and they spend big bucks. And they're very nice people. Very good owners.”

Ed Walker said the Sius asked him whether he'd take the horse back and try him again in the U.K. “At the time, we just assumed it was an environmental problem, with the climate and everything in Hong Kong. Some horses don't acclimatize and adapt,” Walker said. Glorious Empire–as he was again known as–was given plenty of time to readjust to life in Britain again, but Walker said he noticed some personality changes.

“Caspar's a great trainer, so we just felt it was an environmental thing and we might get through his problems. We trained him on Lasix and we managed everything and he was working the house down, and we were very excited about it, but he was slightly scarred mentally and was very, very keen and on edge, worrying about life a bit.”

A year and two months after being repatriated, Walker confidently entered him in the Bunbury Cup, a valuable seven-furlong handicap at Newmarket, in July of 2016. Unfortunately, Glorious Empire was pulled up during the running after another bout of bleeding.

“I just said to the Sius, 'I'm afraid there's nothing else I can do from here. The only chance he's got for a future as a racehorse is in the States,'” Walker said, because of the permitted use of race-day Lasix.

Walker started Glorious Empire one more time, this time in Canada, in the listed Ontario Jockey Club S. at six furlongs on the all-weather at Woodbine in September, two months after the Bunbury Cup, and the gelding finished fifth of seven. Walker then transferred him to the care of his New York-based friend, Tom Morley, who took over the training of the Siu gelding and raced him three more times before the end of the year. His best effort was a third as the longest shot on the board in an allowance optional claimer on turf at Aqueduct.

Schera and Lawrence

At this juncture, it looked like Glorious Empire was destined, at best, to be an optional claimer for the remainder of his days, because Lasix and Morley's horsemanship were allowing him to race regularly and productively.

And that was how Glorious Empire began 2017 at age six, with two decent third-place finishes in turf optional claimers at Fair Grounds in February and March, at distances of about a mile and a sixteenth and at about a mile. Then in May, Morley entered him in another optional claimer at Belmont at seven furlongs on the turf, but this time for a tag of $62,500. Perhaps the Sius were finally ready to cut their ties and move on.

Matt Schera, a commodities trader, had entered the game at around the time Glorious Empire was being developed by Ed Walker in the U.K., and Schera had experienced a bit of success in the ensuing years while the gelding's career was on the downturn, racing such graded winners as Race Day (Tapit), Syntax (Ire) (Haatef), Farhaan (Jazil), and Isotherm (Lonhro {Aus}).

When Schera saw that Glorious Empire was entered for a tag, he did his due diligence. “I watched all his replays in the U.S. and I really liked what I saw,” he said. “He was always dropping to the back at Fair Grounds with Tom Morley and he had this really powerful intra-race run where he was sweeping up and it looked like he was going to win and then he just tailed off at the end. The sheet numbers looked really good on him for a claiming horse because he was losing all the ground when he was rallying wide, and he was just losing by a couple of lengths” to some good horses.

Trainer Carlos Martin had been instructed by Schera to drop the claim on his behalf. Schera was away from the track and watching the race on TV that day when he heard an announcement that the horse had left the paddock early. He said he “had a bad feeling” and called Martin to cancel, but it was too late. Glorious Empire finished last in the race while bleeding through the Lasix.

Schera sent his new horse to Bruce Jackson's Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center for some time off, a change of scenery, and for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a procedure that delivers 100% oxygen to a horse in a chamber–an expensive therapy that has helped a number of well-known bleeders. After a break of two-and-a-half months, Schera and Martin dropped Glorious Empire into a $50,000 turf claimer at a mile and a sixteenth at Saratoga, a race he won wire-to-wire by 7 1/2 lengths. It was his first win in over two years, since his debut in Hong Kong.

Glorious Empire had earned some massive speed figures in the race at Saratoga, so Schera and Martin took their chances in the Gll Bernard Baruch H. at Saratoga in early September at a mile and a sixteenth on turf. Schera said Glorious Empire had a “weird trip and went way wide” while chasing the speed, and he excused his last-place finish in the race as bad luck.

They tried again in late September in the Grade ll Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup S. at a mile at Laurel, a race in which the horse was eased after bleeding again through both nostrils. “At that point, I'm, like, I'm just going to retire this horse. I couldn't bear to see it happen to him again,” Schera said. His then-racing manager convinced him to give the horse one last chance, so Schera sent him for rest and relaxation over the winter to South Carolina after more hyperbaric chamber treatments with Jackson at Fair Hill. Then he handed Glorious Empire over to Chuck Lawrence, who also trains out of Fair Hill.

Lawrence is an ex-steeplechase rider and trainer and his forte is turf racing–especially over a distance of ground. Previously he'd trained Schera's Perfect Title (Perfect Soul {Ire}) to win two turf races at Saratoga in 2015, as well as to a nose second in the listed 12-furlong Laurel Turf Cup S. later that season. Lawrence's only graded stakes win on the flat prior to the Sword Dancer was with Da Dean in the 12-furlong Glll Lawrence Realization at Belmont in 1996.

Lawrence is a big believer in osteopathy and had an osteopath, John Beachel, work extensively on Glorious Empire. Beachel “trained in Germany and Texas. And I've had amazing results with him with several horses. I think that's a big part of it. And you can see the horse liking what the man's doing,” Lawrence said. He also said that Glorious Empire continues the hyperbaric treatments. “After a work, we'll go in there for a couple of treatments. He may have been in there five or six times this year. He's not allowed to be in there 10 days out in New York.”

Lawrence trains Glorious Empire with an emphasis on endurance instead of speed and said that he'll work him seven furlongs and gallop out the mile instead of breezing him five-eighths, for example. Lawrence also gallops the horse a strong mile the morning of his races and will have him warmed up vigorously on the way to the starting gate because he feels that “warming a horse's vascular system up, in my opinion, getting the veins to have elasticity to 'em, is important, and it certainly calms them down more.” Fair Hill's tranquil setting has helped to relax Glorious Empire, Lawrence said.

Lawrence's horsemanship and the patience of Schera, along with the use of Lasix, has turned around the career of Glorious Empire, who's won three of his four starts this year, including his last three races consecutively at distances of nine (allowance optional claimer in which he was in for a $65,000 tag), 11 (Gll Bowling Green H.), and 12 furlongs (GI Sword Dancer).

Ironically, the gradual step up in distances happened organically, Schera said. The horse had never been farther than a mile and a sixteenth until this year with anyone who'd trained him in the past, though his pedigree was suited well enough for the Sword Dancer trip. His Coolmore-based sire, a son of Danehill, gets runners from sprint to classic distances and is responsible for such as Designs On Rome (Ire) (G1 winner in HK at 2000m), Morandi (Fr) (G1 winner in France at 2000m), Well Timed (Ger) (G1 German Oaks at 2200m), and Mongolian Khan (NZ) (G1 NZ Derby at 2400m); his third dam Casey (GB) won the 14-furlong G2 Park Hill S.; and his broodmare sire Pivotal is also the sire of the dams of top 12-furlong winners Cracksman (GB) and Main Sequence, among others.

The big takeaway from all this, however, is that Glorious Empire's career would have ended years ago and he would not be a Grade I winner at the age of seven if he hadn't been able to race here on Lasix. That's why this is the land of opportunity–for the moment, anyway.

Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.


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