Classic Empire

Classic Empire

Joe DiOrio

Classic Empire Out of Fountain of Youth

A foot abscess has changed the plans for the champion's next start.

Juvenile champion Classic Empire  will not start as expected in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) March 4 at Gulfstream Park, trainer Mark Casse said Feb. 19. 

Casse said the colt's foot abscess, which was discovered days after he finished third in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Feb. 4 at Gulfstream, has not healed completely and is still draining. Although the son of Pioneerof the Nile  has been out galloping, Casse decided to hold off on breezing Feb. 20 and is still weighing the options of where to start the colt next.

"We thought if we were going to make the Fountain of Youth, we'd have to at least breeze tomorrow and I'm not ready to breeze him," Casse said. "I talked to (owner John) Oxley this morning and we're going to look elsewhere.

"My hopes are that this thing is cleared up by mid-week and we get to breeze him next week. If that's the case, and we get to (breeze), then, we'll start worrying about what's next."

Casse said at least one more start before the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) would be ideal and that he isn't concerned with the short layoff for Classic Empire. 

"If need be, we could go with one more race into the Derby. He won the (grade 1 Claiborne) Breeders' Futurity off a layoff, really, considering he didn't run at all in the (grade 1) Hopeful, and then came back and won the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile, G1)," he said. 

Classic Empire's win in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity Oct. 8 at Keeneland came four months after his victory in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.

"Our thought is, here we have this horse, who is one of the best 3-year-olds in the country. It would be foolish for us to not let him be 100% before we breezed him again," Casse said. 

Classic Empire currently sits in first place on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 32 points.