After winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, all eyes are on Classic Empire to carry this class of three-year-olds towards the Kentucky Derby. The prohibitive favorite in the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager is already a 6/1 first choice, followed closely by McCraken and Mastery. Well get our first look at Classic Empire when he makes his season debut at the 2017 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.
The choice to run him in the Florida circuit certainly indicates that Classic Empire will likely aim long term towards the Florida Derby. It’s the same pathway that Mohaymen took to get to the Kentucky Derby, though he was decisively upended by Nyquist at the Florida Derby. Still, Mark and Norman Casse seem to be very eager about their chances this coming spring. That all begins with a strong showing at the Holy Bull Stakes.
“Norman was very enthusiastic about the breeze,” Mark Casse said. “When you look at it from a time standpoint it is more about what he does after the breeze. He amazes us because you can’t get him tired. There’s been a lot of discussion about the 2017 Holy Bull between Mr. Oxley, Norman, and myself. I think we’re going to make it because I just think it’s good timing. I would say today is another step closer to the Holy Bull.”
The breeze that Mark Casse is referring to is a 7-furlong set that Classic Empire romped in 1:02 4/5. Classic Empire already seems to have a fairly loyal following so this news will bolster his support. But he’s by no means a homerun bet right now. The three-year-old class this year has noone that is peerless. Classic Empire is merely the horse that’s made the most of his given opportunities.
Still, Casse is overly exited about his big lead, especially as a pathway to the Kentucky Derby begins to take a more definitive shape. “He’s a bit of a bad boy, there is no doubt about that,” Casse said. “I was talking to Mr. Oxley this morning and said to him, ‘He’s different than most horses. He’s absolutely brilliant, but what makes him so good, also makes his bad.’ The fact he is tireless, makes him tough. Somebody the other day said he walks like a panther, and that’s what he does—always ready to pounce.”
The field for the upcoming Holy Bull Stakes doesn’t have much of a field just yet but more names will surely step up to take on the derby favorite in the weeks to come.