2017 Kentucky Derby Horse Profile for Classic Empire

Classic Empire works towards the Kentucky Derby April 28 (Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

Classic Empire Career Statistics

Starts: 7

Wins: 5

Places: 0 `

Shows: 1

Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings: $2,093,820

Owner: John Oxley

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Pedigree: Pioneer of the Nile – Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief

Recent Finish: 1st, Arkansas Derby, G1 (4/15/17)

Notable Wins:  Arkansas Derby and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, G1 (11/5/16)

Classic Empire

Classic Empire, 2017 Kentucky Derby contender, works at Churchill Downs
(Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

Classic Empire History

Classic Empire won the first two races of his career, both at Churchill Downs. The latter was his stakes debut in the Bashford Manor (G3). His next start in the Hopeful Stakes was a did not finish (DNF), as the 8-5 favorite He dumped his rider at the start. Trainer Mark Casse came right back entered Classic Empire in the Breeders Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, and the bay colt cruised home under a drive to win by 3 lengths as the 8-5 favorite. Derby contender Gunnevera was a well-beaten 5th in that race.

Classic Empire winning Arkansas Derby

Classic Empire really made his mark winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 5 at Santa Anita as the 9-2 choice beating the favorite Not This Time by a neck. Off for three months, Classic Empire finished 3rd in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Feb. 4 as the heavy 3-5 favorite more than 8 lengths behind the winner Irish War Cry and 5 lengths behind the runner up Gunnevera, both Derby contenders. Off another 2 ½ month layoff due to a foot abscess and needing a top-3 finish in the Arkansas Derby to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby, Classic Empire responded when asked to run by rider Julien Leparoux and finished with good resolve to get up in time and win by a half-length as the 9-5 favorite.  Classic Empire’s works going into the Arkansas Derby were strong, and he’s one of the few Derby horses where there is little questions on whether he can handle the 1 ¼ mile distance and be his best.

Some key speed figures and stats for Classic Empire:

  • Final 3/8ths time in Arkansas Derby – :37.48 seconds
  • 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Arkansas Derby
  • Winning time of 1:09.39 was the 2nd fastest time in the 26 years that the Bashford Manor Stakes has been a graded stakes race.
  • 2nd in Derby points standings (132)
  • Last 4 Derby winners all finished top-4 in points standings with at least 130 points

Horses that are finishing strongly at the end of their prep races are more likely to handle the distance of the Kentucky Derby (1 ¼ miles) than horses that are tiring at the end of their prep races. A 3/8 mile time less than 38 seconds is considered good, and each of the last five Kentucky Derby winners – and 15 of the last 20 – ran the last three-eighths of their final Derby prep race in less than 38 seconds. Ten Derby horses, including Classic Empire fit that speed figure profile.

He is the half-brother of Derby winner and Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.  Clearly Classic Empire is a very talented colt, and the Derby competition lacks a stand out. Classic Empire will be the favorite in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and while taking a shorter price to win is not appealing in a 20 horse field, Classic Empire will be tough to beat down the stretch if he gets a favorable trip and shows even more improvement since his last race.


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