Classic Empire

John C. Oxley
Steven Nicholson & Brandi Nicholson
Foal Date
Mar 21, 2014

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Classic Empire Racing News

Horse Bio

Classic Empire ended 2016 as the best juvenile in the United States after winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

But the Kentucky Derby has proved tough for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners over the years. Only Street Sense (2007) and Nyquist (2016) have won both races.

Classic Empire’s start to 2017 wasn’t great, when he faded to finish a distant third to Irish War Cry and Gunnevera in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Feb. 4. Subsequently it was discovered he ran with a foot abscess.

The abscess took its time to heal, and he has since had some back issues. Trainer Mark Casse says the colt has recovered, but he is unlikely to race before the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland April 8.

There have also been doubts expressed about Classic Empire’s temperament. His only juvenile defeat came when he threw his rider at the start of the Hopeful Stakes (G1).

Bred by Steven and Brandi Nicholson, Classic Empire was a $475,000 buy at the 2015 Keeneland Yearling Sale for owner John C. Oxley. He usually races close to the speed. His racing style suggests the 1-1/4 miles Derby trip could be a challenge, but his sire Pioneerof The Nile has produced Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and there is some stamina in his female line.

Classic Empire has drifted in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, and was at 11-1 at the end of Pool 3. But in a year when the form book has regularly been upended, Classic Empire has proven grade I class, and he could provide good betting value.

Race History

3rd Road to the Kentucky Derby Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes

Gulfstream Park

II1 1/16 MilesDirt Feb 4, 2017
1st Road to the Kentucky Derby Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Santa Anita Park

I1 1/16 MilesDirt Nov 5, 2016
1st Road to the Kentucky Derby Claiborne Breeders' Futurity Stakes


I1 1/16 MilesDirt Oct 8, 2016
1st Bashford Manor Stakes

Churchill Downs

III6 FurlongsDirt Jul 2, 2016
1st Maiden Special Weight

Churchill Downs

4 1/2 FurlongsDirt May 4, 2016