The breeding rights to Champion 2-year-old and recent GI Preakness S. runner-up Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile–Sambucca Classica, by Cat Thief) have been acquired by Coolmore in a deal brokered by Justin Casse, brother of the colt’s trainer Mark Casse, it was announced Tuesday. The bay will continue to race in the colors of owner John Oxley. Upon his retirement from racing, Classic Empire will stand at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud alongside fellow Eclipse Award-winning juveniles American Pharoah–also by Pioneerof the Nile out of a Storm Cat-line mare–Uncle Mo and Shanghai Bobby.
“Coolmore does an outstanding job of marketing their stallions,” Oxley commented. “American Pharoah is there and he is by Pioneerof the Nile, as is Classic Empire, so I think it is a good fit there. There is a big demand for American Pharoah and the spillover, so to speak, will definitely enhance the following of Classic Empire. Coolmore has been quite good about acquiring excellent young horses as stallions and they have quite a following of customers because of that. I think Classic Empire will benefit from that history.”
“The Casse family and the Oxleys are delighted to be in business with the Coolmore team,” Justin Casse commented. “They have a track record that is unprecedented. They reached out to me towards the end of last year, and obviously, I was a medium between them and Mr. Oxley. The fact that their development of stallions who were champion two-year-olds or Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners was a key point to Mr. Oxley.”
A $475,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Classic Empire captured his debut at Churchill Downs traveling 4 1/2 furlongs and added the GIII Bashford Manor S. in July. He closed out his juvenile campaign with a pair of convincing victories in the GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, landing him unanimous honors as Champion 2-Year-Old Male at the Eclipse Awards in January.
At three, Classic Empire captured the GI Arkansas Derby Apr. 15 before running fourth in the GI Kentucky Derby after a troubled start. He was beaten a head in Saturday’s Preakness after contesting a swift early pace.
“We are very proud,” Oxley said of Classic Empire’s Preakness effort. “We were just thrilled. We were there rooting him home and thought we were going to be at the wire first, but we got beat by a very good horse. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling race and we are proud of Classic Empire. He is doing quite well, so we will be moving on to the [GI] Belmont S. [June 10] and see if we can finally win one of these Triple Crown races.”