December 6, 2023

Classic Empire assigned high weight in 2016 Experimental Free Handicap

The Breeders' Futurity was one of two Grade 1 scores for Classic Empire in 2016 (Keeneland/Coady Photograpy)

Edited Press Release

Classic Empire, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), has been assigned the high weight of 126 pounds to top The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap for 2016.

The 126 pounds assigned to Classic Empire is the standard impost for top Experimental horses.

Not This Time, second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, was the second highest weighted of all eligible two-year-olds at 125 pounds.

The highest weighted filly, at 123, was Champagne Room, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap, published annually since 1935, is a weight-based assessment of the previous year’s leading two-year-olds, with the weights compiled for a hypothetical race at 1 1/16 miles.

This year’s list of eligible horses to be weighted included all two-year-olds of 2016 that started in graded or listed stakes races run in the United States and Canada.

The weighting committee of racing secretaries included five this year – P.J. Campo of the Stronach Group; Ben Huffman of Churchill Downs and Keeneland; Steve Lym of Woodbine Entertainment; Martin Panza of the New York Racing Association Inc.; and Thomas S. Robbins of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Out of the eligible 239 males and 230 fillies, a total of 109 males and 118 fillies were assigned weights.

All Experimental Free Handicap weight assignments, as well as past performances for those horses, are available within the Resources section of

Classic Empire, by Pioneer of the Nile out of Sambuca Classica by Cat Thief, won four out of five starts in 2016. (He lost his rider at the start of his third race, the Hopeful Stakes [G1] at Saratoga). In addition to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he also won the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) and Breeders’ Futurity (G1). He won an Eclipse Award as the 2016 champion two-year-old male.

Champagne Room, by Broken Vow out of Lucky to Be Me by Bernstein, won two out of five starts, including the Sorrento Stakes (G2). She won an Eclipse Award as the 2016 champion two-year-old filly.

Kentucky was the foaling state for Classic Empire and Champagne Room and, once again, was the leading foaling state or province of all weighted horses with 74 males and 80 fillies; Ontario was second with 10 males and six fillies. Great Britain led foaling countries outside of North America with three fillies and two males.

Tapit was the leading sire of weighted horses with five fillies and three males. Into Mischief was second with five fillies and two males.

Following are a few facts about The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap:

  • The Experimental Handicap started in 1933 in the U.S. as a variation of England’s Free Handicap. There was no experimental compiled in 1934.
  • Today a mythical race designed to gauge the ability of top two-year-olds during their three-year-old campaigns, the Experimental Handicap was for more than a decade a real race.
  • The Experimental Handicap was a six-furlong race from 1940 through 1945.
  • The “free” designation became part of the name from 1946 to 1952 because there was not a nomination fee.
  • From 1946 to 1952, the Experimental Free Handicap was contested as two races: one at six furlongs and another at 1 1/16 miles.
  • The six-furlong division of the race was discontinued in 1956, and the race was not held in 1957.
  • Seven of the 12 Triple Crown winners led their two-year-old class: Whirlaway (126), Count Fleet (132), Citation (126), Secretariat (129), Seattle Slew (126), Affirmed (126), American Pharoah (126).
  • Since 2007, out of the top 20 The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap horses for each year, 74 have competed in Triple Crown Races. Of those 74, there have been 24 finishes in the top three positions, including nine wins: Street Sense (127), Super Saver (122), Lookin At Lucky (126), Union Rags (126), American Pharoah (126), Nyquist (126), and Exaggerator (119).
  • Last year’s top-weighted male, Nyquist (126), went on to win three out of six graded races in 2016, including the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! (G1).
  • Last year’s top-weighted filly, Songbird (125), won seven out of eight graded races in 2016, including four Grade 1 races, and was second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).