By Steve Sherack
John C. Oxley’s champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile), forced to miss the GI Belmont S. due to a foot abscess, remains on target for Monmouth’s GI betfair.com Haskell Invitational July 30.
The 2016 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero, just a head short in a thrilling renewal of the GI Preakness S. May 20, completed an eventful, unpublished five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs Monday morning, per trainer Mark Casse. Classic Empire hadn’t breezed since early June.
“He’s been pretty aggressive lately and he took off with [exercise rider] Martin [Rivera] at the seven-eighths pole and went five-eighths–[assistant trainer] Norman [Casse] got him in 1:01 4/5 to the quarter pole,” Casse said by phone while making the drive to upstate New York a day after attending the Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale.
“Obviously, Martin knew he was only supposed to go five-eighths, so he kind of shut him down [in the stretch]. I think they got him galloping out seven-eighths in 1:28 3/5 or 4/5. That’s pretty impressive when you figure that Martin weighs over 150 pounds. They get along and I don’t want to change things. It’s been working.”
Casse added that Classic Empire didn’t miss much training time due to his aforementioned foot issue and also had a very strong one-mile gallop a week prior to his Monday breeze.
“We were just trying to put some air into him,” Casse said.
“He’s at Saratoga now. We haven’t decided exactly yet when he’s going to have his next breeze. But, so far, we’re still on schedule for the Haskell.”