Classic Empire Evokes Thoughts of American Pharoah Following Bashford Manor Win

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Ed DeRosa

July 3rd, 2016

Assistant trainer Norm Casse didn’t mince words when talking about Classic Empire following the colt’s electrifying last-to-first rally to win the Bashford Manor Stakes.

“He reminds me of American Pharoah,” Casse said. “Nothing rattles him.

“The thing I really like about him other than he’s really fast is that he’s a cool horse. This can be a scary night for two-year-olds with night racing, and fireworks going on, but he handles himself so well.”

Like last year’s Triple Crown champion, Classic Empire is by the WinStar farm stallion Pioneerof the Nile. John Oxley bought the colt out of the Cat Thief mare Sambuca Classica for $475,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale not with the Bashford Manor in mind, but another race at Churchill Downs.

“What gets us up in the morning is a chance at the [Kentucky] Derby, Casse said. “[Classic Empire] has the pedigree and mind to do it.”

Oxley won the 2001 Derby with Monarchos; the 2017 Derby is May 6.

Classic Empire won his career debut on May 4 at Churchill Downs, overcoming a troubled start to win by 1 ½ lengths at odds of 1-to-2. Casse expected a similar performance today.

“He trained well coming up to the race, and this was the type of performance we were expecting,” Casse said. “We’ll look at a spot at Saratoga next—probably the Sanford or Special—once we see how he’s training up there.”

In order to win the Bashford Manor, Classic Empire had to reel in odds-on favorite Recruiting Ready, who set a fast pace after breaking like a rocket under Edgar Prado. Recruiting Ready put away eventual third-place finisher Tip Tap Tapizar, but let Classic Empire into the race late.

“He broke ready but then waited for horses,” Prado said. “He doesn’t let horses go by but then when he takes lead he waits. It’s unfortunate he got beat; he’s fast.”

Photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography