The 2016 Empire Classic Handicap is a top heavy field. The majority of the group is listed at 10/1 or far greater. A chance of an upset always exists, but only four horses have legitimate chances of crashing the top-three and this race should go chalk for horse players.
Governor Malibu is the headliner as the 2/1 favorite and had some confidence restored after winning a Belmont allowance heading in to the 2016 Empire Classic. Shooting late in to the Triple Crown, Governor Malibu finished 4th in the Belmont Stakes and followed that up with a 2nd place finish at the Jim Dandy before a very respectable 5th at a loaded Travers Stakes. In rivalling the top three-year old colts throughout the season, this son of Malibu Moon is well worth an investment.
The question is whether he can beat my actual preference to win. Royal Posse is the second favorite at 3/1 and this feels like a bit of a trip since he has posted faster 1 1/8th mile times than the favorite in this race. He was last out winning the Evan Shipman and with trainer Rudy Rodriguez on a role it’s hard to envision him finishing outside the top-two. Pairing him with Governor Malibu is my top option.
Hit It Once More enters the 2016 Empire Classic after finishing 12th at the Penn Derby, which also had a stacked field. It’s hard to say if that was just an off race for the three-year old colt since he came in to that illustrious competition with wins at the New York Derby and Albany. There’s a chance that the state of New York is his preferred venue, and his tempting 5/1 number make him an optimal option to place or show if you’re looking to hedge a more daring play with the horses listed above.
Coming in as the third option is Wake Up in Malibu, a half-brother to Governor Malibu. Running on the inside post presents obvious downsides, but his up-and-down career also poses problems for investors. I am not as high on this horse as the oddsmakers.
Leading the longshots is Empire Dreams, who finally makes his 2016 debut after finishing first at the Alex M. Robb to conclude a fruitful four-year old campaign where he also won the commentator handicap.
2016 Empire Classic Handicap – Saturday, October 23rd at Belmont (5:19pm EST)
1 1/8th Miles — 3+ Year Olds — $300,000
|1||Wake Up in Malibu (NY)||Jose L. Ortiz||119||Charlton Baker||4/1|
|2||Governor Malibu (NY)||Joel Rosario||120||Christophe Clement||2/1|
|3||Pax in Terra (NY)||John R. Velazquez||114||Todd A. Pletcher||15/1|
|4||Good Luck Gus (NY)||Luis Saez||118||Rudy R. Rodriguez||15/1|
|5||Hit It Once More (NY)||Javier Castellano||116||Gary Sciacca||5/1|
|6||Royal Posse (NY)||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||122||Rudy R. Rodriguez||3/1|
|7||Sea Raven (NY)||Emmanuel Esquivel||115||Kelly Rubley||20/1|
|8||Clifton Pleasure (NY)||Angel S. Arroyo||114||Naipaul Chatterpaul||20/1|
|9||Empire Dreams (NY)||Manuel Franco||120||Thomas Albertrani||10/1|