Sunday, May 21, 2017

Midway-tied Classic Empire a head short in Preakness; headed to Belmont Stakes in New York June 10

The Preakness finish (Photo by Nick Wass, The Associated Press)
Midway-connected Classic Empire grabbed the lead in the final turn but was overtaken by 13-1 shot Cloud Computing, who won the Preakness Stakes by a head at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore yesterday.

“I got to the lead early, maybe too early,” Classic Empire's jockey, Julien Leparoux, said afterward.

Trainer Mark Casse seemed to agree: “His mind tends to wander. . . . He starts seeing things and stops paying attention. You could see Julien getting after him like, ‘Come on. Come on. We’re not done.’ He thought he was done.”

Cloud Computing did not run in the Kentucky Derby because his trainer, Chad Brown, thought he needed more than three races in preparation. “Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, if we are ever going to beat them, let’s take them on on two weeks’ rest when we have six, and it worked,” Brown said after the Preakness. Always Dreaming, the Derby winner, finished eighth in yesterday's 1 3/16-mile race.

Classic Empire is owned by John and Debby Oxley, who own Fawn Leap Farm just south of Midway. He is a Tulsa oilman who also has homes in Palm Beach and Saratoga; she is a native of Shively. The horse was last year's two-year-old champion and finished fourth in the Derby after being heavily bumped at the start.

UPDATE, May 22: Casse told Jason Frakes of The Courier-Journal that he plans to run Classic Empire in the June 10 Belmont Stakes. He initially was pointing toward the Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 30, but decided against a break because the horse is improving. On Saturday, "He was a better horse than he was two weeks ago." Brown said the mile-and-a-half Belmont may not suit Cloud Computing. Always Dreaming trainer Todd Pletcher also hasn't decided. Senior Investment and Lookin at Lee, third and fourth respectively in the Preakness, are headed to the Belmont. 

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