First-Crop sires: Classic Empire quick out of the stall with five early winners
Coolmore notably snatched up the breeding rights to six of the seven entire males that earned the Eclipse Award for champion juvenile from 2009 through 2016 to stand at their Ashford Stud property in Kentucky.
The operation is undoubtedly pleased so far with the last of those, Classic Empire, who through July 12 has sired five winners throughout North America from his first crop.
Classic Empire's profile
A son of Pioneerof the Nile, who also sired 2014 juvenile champion, Triple Crown winner, and fellow Ashford resident American Pharoah, Classic Empire was campaigned by John Oxley and trained by Mark Casse.
Out of the Cat Thief mare Sambuca Classic, Classic Empire, like several of his offspring to date, won on debut at Churchill Downs, by 1 1/2 lengths. Next, he successfully stepped up from 4 1/2 furlongs to six furlongs to take the Bashford Manor S. (G3), the Louisville track's leading springtime race for juveniles.
Favored to win the Hopeful S. (G1) at Saratoga two months later, Classic Empire suffered his only setback of the season, when he bolted and lost jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. soon after the start.
However, with regular rider Julien Leparoux back up, and with the addition of blinkers, Classic Empire cemented championship honors with a three-length score in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and a neck triumph in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita.
Classic Empire's preparation for the Triple Crown series was hindered by foot issues. Off for more than two months following a distant third-place finish in the Holy Bull S. (G3) to start the season, Classic Empire overcame the layoff, the foot, and the 1 1/8-mile distance to take the Arkansas Derby (G1) by a half-length.
After a rough-trip fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) over an off track, Classic Empire rebounded to miss the Preakness S. (G1) by a head to Cloud Computing. It was arguably the most impressive race of Classic Empire's career, as he only lost so narrowly, after he disputed the pace with Derby winner Always Dreaming.
A recurrence of foot issues kept Classic Empire out of the Belmont S. (G1) and thwarted a planned summer campaign.
By the fall of 2017, Classic Empire's connections decided to retire the colt, rather than wait until the following year for his foot to completely heal. His record at retirement was 5-1-1 from nine starts, with more than $2.5 million in purse earnings. Classic Empire stood this last breeding season for $17,500.
Classic Empire's winners
Classic Empire's first two winners, both at Churchill, won in the claiming ranks.
Old Town Road was first out of the gate May 7, when he won for a $50,000 tag by 2 1/2 lengths, as an even-money favorite for trainer Wesley Ward. He earned a 75 Brisnet Speed Rating for that performance, so Old Town Road's immediate future might lie beyond claiming races.
The same goes for Classic Empire's second winner, Classiness, who won on debut by 1 1/4 lengths May 31, also for a $50,000 tag. The Jason Barkley-trained filly made an additional start at the meet, in the Debutante S. on June 26, but finished a well-beaten fifth in the field of eight.
Classic Empire's three maiden special weight winners all hail from notable barns. Ottoman Empire, from the family of 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Spain, rallied from seventh to capture his debut by a length at Churchill, as a 13-1 shot under jockey James Graham. The Tom Amoss-trained colt stopped the timer in :58.17 for five furlongs and earned a 76 Brisnet Speed Rating. He is stabled at Saratoga and could make his stakes debut during the meet.
Interstatedaydream gutted out a head victory in her 5 1/2-furlong debut at Belmont Park on June 25, as a 3-5 favorite for trainer Brad Cox. Out of a half-sister to Canadian champion juvenile and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Uncaptured, Interstatedaydream earned a 79 Brisnet Speed Rating. She posted her most recent work at Belmont, which suggests that she, too, might be seen during the Saratoga meet.
Twenty Four Mamba was outrun in both of his appearances over Churchill's main track this spring, but has found his calling over Woodbine's Tapeta track. On July 4, the Casse charge aced his first synthetic test by 5 1/4 lengths, covered five furlongs in :58.31, and earned a 75 Brisnet Speed Rating.
About the series
Freshman Orientation is a series that highlights five different sires with a first crop of two-year-old Thoroughbreds. Could the juveniles show up at the Breeders' Cup, or even the 2022 Kentucky Derby? Follow along and find out!