Champion Classic Empire has been removed from consideration for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 30, trainer Mark Casse told drf.com.
“I think his back is bugging him a little again, which happens whenever he hurts his foot, and it’s something we’ll have to address,” Casse explained. “He trained well this morning (Sunday), but I just don’t feel comfortable breezing him yet, and you can’t go into a race like the Haskell not getting to do everything you want him to do for the race.
“I really needed to work him tomorrow (Monday) if we were going to run, but he hasn’t been as aggressive the last few mornings as he had been prior to leaving Kentucky, and I want him to tell me when he’s ready to breeze, not the other way around.”
Classic Empire shipped to Saratoga from Churchill Downs, where he recorded his last official move in :50 for a half-mile on June 2. The Kentucky-bred bay finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and a head second in the Preakness Stakes (G1) in his past two races, but was scratched from the Belmont Stakes (G1) the Wednesday before that classic 1 1/2-mile race due to the recurrence of an abscess in his right front hoof.
The Pioneerof the Nile colt will now target the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 25.
In other Haskell Invitational news, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is sending Battle of Midway from the West Coast to contest the 1 1/8-mile event.
Battle of Midway worked three-quarters on Friday over Santa Anita Park’s fast main track in 1:12.40. It was the third move from the Smart Strike colt since his 4 1/4-length wire job in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) at that same track on June 24.
Battle of Midway was a half-length second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) earlier this season and third in the Kentucky Derby next out at Churchill Downs, but the Affirmed was his first stakes victory.
“The horse has been doing really well since his last race,” said Hollendorfer, who won the 1989 Haskell with King Glorious. “We just wanted to maintain his good form with the works. Everything looks good pointing toward the Haskell.”
In addition to Irish War Cry, who worked at Fair Hill on Sunday, and Battle of Midway, the Chad Brown-trained duo of Timeline and Practical Joke are also expected for the Haskell.
Undefeated Timeline, hero of the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) and Monmouth Park’s Haskell prep, the Pegasus Stakes (G3), in his past two, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.21 over Belmont Park’s fast main track on Sunday. Practical Joke captured the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont by two lengths last Saturday.
Trainer Joe Sharp shipped Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Girvin to Saratoga on Thursday ahead of his Haskell run, and the Tale of Ekati colt logged a half-mile breeze in :49 over that track’s fast Oklahoma dirt training track on Sunday.
Girvin was last seen on June 24 just missing by a nose in the Ohio Derby (G3) to Irap, who returned Saturday to take the Indiana Derby (G2) by five lengths.
Also considered probable for the Haskell is McCraken, last-out winner of the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) who breezed a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.40 over Churchill Downs’ fast dirt on Thursday for trainer Ian Wilkes, as well as Hence and Impressive Edge.
Hence captured the Iowa Derby (G2) by 1 1/2 lengths on July 7 at Prairie Meadows for trainer Steve Asmussen, with Impressive Edge filling the third spot that day for conditioner Dale Romans.