Grade 3-placed SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker), a smart winner of a seven-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his three-year-old debut, will make the fourth start of his career and first around two turns in the March 20 Florida Derby (G1), trainer Cam Gambolati revealed Thursday.
"We've weighed the options and decided to go ahead and give him a chance," Gambolati said from his base at Palm Meadows. "His race here was very good to win after getting nailed at the start and beat a good field. I know we're a little behind the eight-ball, but they only get one chance (at making the Kentucky Derby [G1])."
Soaring Empire captured his career debut at Monmouth last September. Despite his stamina-oriented pedigree, he won that 5 1/2-furlong maiden going away by 3 1/4 lengths. The well-bred dark bay raced only once more at two, finishing a creditable third in the November 1 Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs.
Reappearing on February 25 at Gulfstream, Soaring Empire was bumped solidly at the start, but rallied from eighth to score by three-quarters of a length. Eddie Castro has been aboard for all three of the colt's starts.
"I was going to work him this morning, but decided to hold off because of the weather and wait," Gambolati said Thursday, adding that Soaring Empire would probably work on Sunday.
"Eddie (Castro) will ride him. Some (trainers) don't like the six weeks (between the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby), but it happens to fit my schedule for this horse.
"If he needs more earnings, I can run him once more, maybe the Blue Grass ([G1] at Keeneland on April 10)."