01/09/2012 2:36PM

Gulfstream Park: Soaring Empire ready for Hal’s Hope

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Barbara D. Livingston
Soaring Empire will make his first start since Monmouth Park’s Majestic Light on July 31 in Saturday's Grade 3 Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park.

Saturday’s Grade 3 Hal’s Hope is the first major test for older horses here this season and could prove a stepping-stone to the Donn for one or more members. A small but talented lineup is expected, topped by defending champ Soaring Empire, Jackson Bend, and Will’s Wildcat.

Soaring Empire, who has not started since winning Monmouth Park’s Majestic Light on July 31, has been working steadily here for his return over the past two months for trainer Cam Gambolati. His final prep came Friday, an easy half-mile in 47.01 with jockey Julian Leparoux aboard.

“He’s coming into this race after a longer layoff than last year, but I had to give him a break when I did,” Gambolati said. “I’m looking for a positive race, whether he wins or not. I just want to see him finish, and if he does that, we’ll probably go on to the Donn.”

Will’s Wildcat has not started since finishing eighth after making the early pace in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25. He, too, has been training forwardly over the local strip for his 2012 debut, including six furlongs in 1:14.86 with jockey Calvin Borel aboard Friday.

“He has no conditions left, so we really don’t have any other alternatives at the moment but to run him in the Hal’s Hope,” trainer James Baker said. “He’s only run a one-turn mile once before, but he won rather impressively at Churchill Downs. I’m not sure if he likes that distance or he just loves Churchill. That’s one of the reasons we took a shot in the Clark. He’s a local horse who loves the track with local owners and a local trainer. There also wasn’t much speed in the race. We took a shot, and it didn’t hurt him. He worked good the other day with Calvin, he wasn’t blowing too hard when he came back.”

Hal's Hope Stakes (G3), Post Time: 4:17 ET Saturday

Purse: $100,000; 1 mile

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Jackson Bend

N. Zito

J. Velazquez

2-1

1

Sky Venture

C. Paul

J. Leyva

20-1

1

Sangaree

K. McLaughlin

R. Maragh

6-1

1

Successful Mission

E. Plesa, Jr.

E. Trujillo

3-1

1

Decisive Moment

J. Arias

S. Madrid

12-1

1

Our Dark Knight

N. Zito

J. Bravo

12-1

1

Soaring Empire

C. Gambolati

J. Leparoux

4-1

1

Cool Blue Red Hot

A. Penna, Jr.

M. Cruz

12-1

1

Will's Wildcat

J. Baker

C. Borel

10-1