Saturday, February 25, 2017

Midway-connected Classic Empire moves back to top of prospect list for this year's Kentucky Derby

Debby and John Oxley of Midway's Fawn Leap Farm, left, with Classic
Empire after he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile stakes in early November.
Midway-connected Classic Empire is again the top prospect for the May 7 Kentucky Derby, after his subpar performance in the Holy Bull Stakes was attributed to a hoof abscess, but that temporary health problem means that trainer Mark Casse is no longer aiming for next Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes, reports columnist Tim Sullivan of The Courier-Journal.

"When Churchill Downs opened Pool 3 of its Kentucky Derby future wagers Friday afternoon, Classic Empire shared the shortest odds of any individual horse with McCraken, at 8-1. He continues to lead the points race for Derby qualifying," Sullivan reports. "Yet the abscess has changed and compressed the bay colt’s prep race schedule and effectively eliminates some of the wiggle room still available in the 10 weeks remaining before Derby 143. . . . Classic Empire may run only one more race en route to America’s biggest race."

Classic Empire is owned by John C. "Jack" and Debby Oxley, who have a home at their Fawn Leap Farm on the south edge of Midway, and is trained by Mark Casse. Son and assistant Norman Casse told Sullivan that the horse's next race is uncertain: "We’re kind of joking around, saying that he’s kind of training us. He’s telling us what he wants to do. We haven’t really lost any confidence in him, but he just has to go day to day and week to week and run when he’s really ready to run."

Today's Derby prep is the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the first race to offer 50 Derby points to the winner. The favorite is Mo Town, who has 10 points. McCraken, Gormley and El Areeb each have 20 Derby points; Classic Empire has 32. McCraken is slated to run in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday, March 11.
UPDATE: Girvin won the Risen Star; Untrapped placed, getting 20 points for a total of 24; Local Hero was third and got 10; Guest Suite was fourth, getting five for a total of 15.

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