Classic Empire , the winner of the Sentinet Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and favorite to be named the 2-year-old male champion, took another significant step Jan. 16 on the path to possibly launching his 3-year-old campaign in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Under exercise rider. E.J. Bowler, the son of Pioneerof the Nile worked five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 in company with 7-year-old and multiple graded stakes winner Kaigun at the Palm Meadows Training Center.
The move was the second breeze of the year for John Oxley's Classic Empire, whose status to run in the $350,000 Holy Bull continues to get the green light from trainer Mark Casse. Casse was not on hand for the work which was overseen by his son and assistant, Norman.
"Norman was very enthusiastic about the breeze," Casse said. "When you look at it from a time standpoint it is more about what he does after the breeze. He amazes us because you can't get him tired. There's been a lot of discussion about the Holy Bull between Mr. Oxley, Norman, and myself. I think we're going to make it because I just think it's good timing. I would say today is another step closer to the Holy Bull."
Undeniably talented, Classic Empire also has another side to him, one that makes him somewhat of a challenge for his connections. One such example is when he left the starting gate in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course, wheeled, and lost the rider.
"He's a bit of a bad boy, there is no doubt about that," Casse said. "I was talking to Mr. Oxley this morning and said to him, 'He's different than most horses. He's absolutely brilliant, but what makes him so good, also makes his bad.' The fact he is tireless, makes him tough. Somebody the other day said he walks like a panther, and that's what he does—he always ready to pounce."
Kaigun, like his workmate, is being prepared for his return to the races. The gelding has not run since finishing fourth in the Nijinsky Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine in July.
Last year at Gulfstream, the well-traveled Kaigun, owned by a partnership that includes Gary Barber and Casse's wife Tina, won the Pan American Stakes (G2T).
"He hasn't run in awhile, so I'm probably pointing him to an allowance race," Casse said. "His form tailed off in the last couple of races, and I gave him some time. I would love to bring him back and give him a confidence booster. He's a work or two away from running. I will look for a race in February."