The racing career of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner has come to and. Classic Empire retires to stud at Ashford Stud following a career that never quite lived up to expectations. Still, there is promise for the talented athlete to have a great second life as a sire. It’s a pretty good way to go, to be honest.
Classic Empire broke his maiden as a two-year-old in a 2016 Churchill Downs allowance, and then scored yet again in the Bashful Manor making it two for two. He then won the Breeders’ Futurity ahead of the world champoinships, where he would announce his candidacy for the Triple Crown by troucning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile handedly.
From there it was supposed to be a straight shot to the American Classics, but Classic Empire’s development plateau’d where others were quickly maturing past hist standard. He placed 3rd in the Hopeful before winning the Arkansas Derby and marching on to the first leg of the Triple Crown as one of the favorites. Despite running well, Classic Empire fell to 4th in the 2017 Kentucky Derby but rallied to finish 2nd to Cloud Computing in the Preakness Stakes. He was supposed to run in the Belmont Stakes as well, but a foot injury further complicated his development. This same problem would end his season.
“The problem is he had to come back at the top of his game to compete with the very best and we kind of felt like if he couldn’t do that, what else was there out there for him to do,” said trainer Mark Casse as Classic Empire retires having been stabled since the spring. “The foot took a lot longer to get right than I thought it would. He actually looks wonderful, he’s traveling well, but just not enough time.”
At three years old, there’s plenty of optimism that he will still be a good breeder and Ashland Stud is rightfully excited to have him join their fleet. “Classic Empire was an exceptionally talented 2-year-old,” said Ashford’s Charlie O’Connor. “Not only was he the champion 2-year-old but he backed it up again this year with a Grade-I win at 3. His brilliance on the track is reinforced with a pedigree full of black-type that traces back to Harlan’s Holiday. We couldn’t be more excited to be standing him.”
Classic Empire retires with a record of 5-1-1 in 9 starts with career earnings of $2,520,220. He was originally purchased as a yearling for $450,000 by owner John Oxley. His biggest win will remain the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“To me, if he can produce himself, I think any breeder will just be over the moon because he is an athlete,” trainer Mark Casse said. “He has a walk like a panther. If he can reproduce himself, he’s going to be one heck of a sire.”