After Not Working, Classic Empire Gallops in Ocala

After Not Working, Classic Empire Gallops in Ocala
Photo: Ryan Thompson
Mark Casse walks Classic Empire with Julien Leparoux aboard after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile

John Oxley's reigning juvenile champion Classic Empire did not break off in a scheduled workout Sunday, March 19 at Palm Meadows Training Center, but seemed to be in good order March 20, according to trainer Mark Casse.

The Pioneerof the Nile   colt was shipped to Ocala Training Center Sunday afternoon and Casse reported the champion colt looked fine when he galloped on the synthetic surface there March 20.

"He went out and he started off and just didn't want to go," Casse said of the March 19 work that was cut short. "Yesterday afternoon he got on a van and he's at the training center in Ocala. He galloped great this morning. Perfect."

The Canadian Hall of Fame trainer said Classic Empire will breeze at the Ocala complex in the next couple of days and then ship to Keeneland at the end of the week for his planned start in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8. 

"Our thought is to breeze in Ocala this week and then I'm going to probably get him to Kentucky," he said. "(We'll) get him there and probably have a breeze there next week."

The conditioner said he doesn't know exactly what was bothering the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) winner March 19, but thinks that a change of location may have helped.

"I really have no excuse for him. He really just didn't want to go. He went to breeze and he just didn't want to breeze," Casse said. "My thought is that he's had a lot of things happen to him there and maybe it's just not a great place for him. 

"So after that yesterday, we went ahead and sent him to Ocala, and this morning he was a happy camper and galloped beautiful. We went back to our roots, that's where he started.

"Right now, he's a happy, healthy horse. I just don't know; horses can't talk."

In taking last year's divisional championship, Classic Empire won four of five starts, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Claiborne Breeders' Futurity Stakes (G1). His only loss coming when he spun after leaving the gate in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) and lost his rider.

In the start of his 3-year-old season he had a couple of setbacks, including a hoof abscess that was discovered after a third-place finish in the Feb. 2 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and discomfort in his back after an aborted workout March 3. 

His most recent posted work was March 12 at Palm Meadows when he clocked :48.95 for a half mile—the third fastest of 34 at the distance. 

WINCZE HUGHES: Champion Classic Empire Back on Worktab

Bred in Kentucky by Steven and Brandi Nicholson, the colt was purchased for $475,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale by Oxley. He has a record of four wins from six starts, with earnings of $1,520,220, and currently sits in eighth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 32 points. 

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