Champion Classic Empire, fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and a head second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) in his past two races, is scheduled to jog at Churchill Downs on Friday morning in advance of the third leg of the Triple Crown, the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 10 at Belmont Park.
“We are really proud of his Preakness effort,” assistant trainer Norm Casse said. “He came out of the race in great shape and we’re excited to get him back to training.”
Plans are not yet set for when Classic Empire will ship to New York, nor whether he would breeze for the “Test of the Champion” at Churchill or Belmont Park.
“We’ll have to look into the plane schedule,” Casse explained. “We have a lot of horses at our Churchill division who will run in stakes races that weekend, so there are some logistical questions we need to figure out first.”
Classic Empire was honored as the 2016 champion two-year-old male after closing out his juvenile campaign with a neck victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park. He opened his career under the Twin Spires at Churchill, breaking his maiden and taking the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3), but lost his rider in his only foray to New York when trying the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last September. That was his only loss as a juvenile, as the bay colt when on to take the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup.
Thus far in 2017, Classic Empire has compiled a 4-1-1-1 record. He ran third in his sophomore debut, the Holy Bull Stakes (G2), then suffered some setbacks in his quest for Kentucky Derby glory. Trainer Mark Casse got him ready just in time to take the Arkansas Derby (G1), but the Pioneerof the Nile colt suffered a troubled trip in the Run for the Roses.
Classic Empire exited the Kentucky Derby with a swollen eye resulting from a mud clod hitting him, but was back on his game to battle it out with Cloud Computing in the stretch of the Preakness before just falling short by a head.
In other Belmont Stakes news, Grade 3 winner J Boys Echo has been added to the probable field for the 1 1/2-mile affair. Trained by Dale Romans, the Mineshaft colt is based at Churchill Downs and crossed under the Kentucky Derby wire in 15th most recently.
The possible Belmont Stakes field currently stands at Classic Empire, Conquest Mo Money, Epicharis, Gormley, Irap, J Boys Echo, Lookin at Lee, Meantime, Multiplier, Patch, Senior Investment, Tapwrit and Twisted Tom.