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Classic Empire Holds On to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Score

Classic Empire Wins the Breeders' Futurity at Keelenand 10/16. Photo: Casey Laughter

Classic Empire Wins the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland 10/16. Photo: Casey Laughter

By Casey Laughter

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) is the pinnacle race for any 2-year-old colt. The winner is usually – not always – named the champion 2-year-old male and while the 1 1/16-mile test is not always as exciting as some hope, this year was a standout exception.

While the four undefeated colts that started in this race exited undefeated, the finish was scintillating.

John Oxley’s Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner Classic Empire went to post at the second favorite behind runaway Iroquois Stakes (GIII) winner Not This Time. The speedy Syndergaard rushed to the lead from the gate, though and set all the pace in splits of :23 and :46.60, were honest splits for the young colts. Heading to the three-quarter mark, Syndergaard was still on the lead and posted at time of 1:10.49 but Classic Empire and jockey Julien Leparoux were starting to roll from their early position just off the pace.

Classic Empire took the lead from the frontrunner as he headed into the homestretch and slowly to pull away with each stride. He maintained a clear advantage with under a furlong to run, but Not This Time was rolling from mid-pack down the outside and loomed a bold threat to catch Classic Empire before the wire. The two colts duked it out, and with one final surge, Classic Empire delivered the final blow, defeated Not This Time by a neck. Practical Joke was 7 1/2 back in third while it was another four lengths back to Looking at Lee.

Classic Empire paid $11 to win.

Jockey Julien Leparoux looks forward to riding this colt toward his three-year-old year.

“He is a very nice horse. I don’t think distance will be a problem,” Leparoux said. “I am excited for the future.”

Trainer Mark Casse has taken steps to get the Pioneerof the Nile colt to be as well behaved as he was today.

“This hasn’t been easy, he will try you,” Casse joked.

However, Casse believes this is one of the best two-year-olds he has trained in his 37-year career.

“His race in the Bashford Manor was the best of any two-year-old I have ever trained.”

Classic Empire is out of the Cat Thief mare, Sambuca Classica.

With the win, Classic Empire is pegged at the early 2017 Kentucky Derby (GI) favorite and the likely Eclipse Award-winning Juvenile. With the win, he also earned 20 points toward the 2017 Run for the Roses.

Not This Time earned eight Derby points, Practical Joke earned four points, and Looking at Lee earned two points.