Classic Empire confirmed his status as a leading 2-year-old when he cruised to victory in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland Oct. 8.
Owner John Oxley recognized him as a promising talent when he paid $475,000 for him at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. The Pioneerof the Nile colt rewarded that confidence eight months later by romping to victory at Churchill Downs in his career debut. He added Churchill Downs’ Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) in his second start on July 2.
In his third start in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 4, Classic Empire failed to finish. In fact, he barely even started. When the gates opened that afternoon, Classic Empire veered to the right and lost his jockey.
Trainer Mark Casse’s team didn’t give up on the colt and got right to work giving him remedial lessons in equine etiquette to bring out more of his best.
“This is a very, very talented horse.” Casse’s son and assistant Norm said after the Breeders’ Futurity victory. “We got right to work on him after the Hopeful. We put blinkers on him; we breezed him out of the gate several times. It paid dividends. We’ll move forward from here. You’ve got to think this horse has plenty of room to improve.”