Angel of Empire Sprouts Wings in Arkansas Derby

Angel of Empire | Coady Photography

Fourth choice at 9-2, but the only runner in the GI Arkansas Derby field with a win at nine furlongs, Angel of Empire (c, 3, Classic Empire–Armony's Angel, by To Honor and Serve) used that overlooked experience to his advantage and emerged looking like a world-beater. Racing midpack early, he ranged up and burst clear to win in hand and by daylight. King Russell (Creative Cause) was second, while Reincarnate (Good Magic) finished third. The Arkansas Derby was a GI Kentucky Derby points race and awarded points on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale.

After a picture-perfect break from the gate, the field strung out as Two Eagles River (Cloud Computing) set the pace while Angel of Empire bided his time completely clear mid-field. Little changed through the :23.27 first quarter and :47.26 half, but Angel of Empire was on the move a half mile from home. He simply picked off horses on the turn, swept to the front at the top of the stretch, and drove clear. Flavien Prat waved the whip at him late, but the race was over. Two Eagles River threw in the towel in the stretch, while 58-1 King Russell had closed to hook up with 3-1 stalker Reincarnate. The two got the minor awards, but finished 4 1/4 lengths behind Angel of Empire. Favored Rocket Can (Into Mischief) was fourth, a head behind Reincarnate.

“It's huge,” said winning trainer Brad Cox, who also won last year's edition with Cyberknife (Gun Runner). “Big day. Very impressed with this horse, how he ran today. He came home quick, and he's a horse that the longer the better. Looking forward to getting him to the Kentucky Derby in five weeks.”

Angel of Empire was last seen Feb. 18 winning the GII Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds at the same distance. Third in that race was last week's impressive GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Two Phil's (Hard Spun). Like Brad Cox's earlier-on-Saturday's-card GIII Fantasy S. winner Wet Paint (Blame), Angel of Empire broke his maiden last summer at Horseshoe Indianapolis and then gave the turf a try at Kentucky Downs. He didn't like the grass, but has been stellar since, taking an Indiana allowance by open daylight to close his juvenile campaign before opening 2023 with a second in the Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn.

Albaugh Family Stables picked up Angel of Empire for $70,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. Racing manager Jason Loutsch said Saturday, “After seeing that race, I've got a lot of confidence. This is a horse I've been saying [since] day one wants to get the distance. He showed that twice at a mile and an eighth. He just keeps running. I thought he ran a great race today, and I'm excited for the first Saturday in May.”

The Albaugh Family Stables has two other contenders for the Kentucky Derby: their Cyclone Mischief (Into Mischief) was third Saturday in the GI Florida Derby and their Jace's Road (Quality Road) was third in last week's GII Louisiana Derby.

Pedigree Notes:

Angel of Empire is the first winner at the highest level for sire Classic Empire, who has two North American crops at the races. The Coolmore America stallion, champion 2-year-old colt of 2016, won the Arkansas Derby himself in 2017. Classic Empire has eight black-type winners and four graded winners. Angel of Empire is the only stakes winner for To Honor and Serve, who now stands in Korea, as a broodmare sire; however, To Honor and Serve's sire, Bernardini, is the damsire of Classy Edition, one of Classic Empire's graded winners.

Black Diamond Corp., co-breeder of Angel of Empire, bought his dam, Armony's Angel, for $67,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November sale with the Arkansas Derby winner in utero. A half to GSW Conquest Big E (Tapit), the now-7-year-old Armony's Angel has a 2-year-old colt named Third City (Collected) and a yearling full-brother to Angel of Empire named Raconteur. Third City was sold to Kenneth R. Kachel for $23,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky summer yearling sale. The mare was not bred for 2023.

Saturday, Oaklawn Park
ARKANSAS DERBY-GI, $1,250,000, Oaklawn, 4-1, 3yo, 1 1/8m,
1:49.68, ft.
1–ANGEL OF EMPIRE, 122, c, 3, by Classic Empire
          1st Dam: Armony's Angel, by To Honor and Serve
          2nd Dam: Seeinsbelieven, by Carson City
          3rd Dam: Coragil, by Metfield
1ST GRADE I WIN. ($32,000 RNA Wlg '20 KEENOV; $70,000 Ylg
'21 KEESEP). O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC; B-Forgotten Land
Investment Inc & Black Diamond Equine Corp (PA); T-Brad H.
Cox; J-Flavien Prat. $739,375. Lifetime Record: GSW & SP,
6-4-1-0, $1,069,375. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–King Russell, 119, c, 3, Creative Cause–Believe You Will, by
Proud Citizen. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE, 1ST
G1 BLACK TYPE. ($60,000 Ylg '21 FTKOCT). O-Brereton C. Jones
and Naber Racing, LLC; B-Brereton C. Jones (KY); T-Ron
Moquett. $227,500.
3–Reincarnate, 122, c, 3, Good Magic–Allanah, by Scat Daddy.
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. ($775,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-SF Racing
LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert E.
Masterson, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Jay A. Schoenfarber,
Waves Edge Capital LLC and Catherine Donovan; B-Woods
Edge Farm, LLC (KY); T-Tim Yakteen. $113,750.
Margins: 4 1/4, HF, HD. Odds: 4.70, 58.80, 3.30.
Also Ran: Rocket Can, Airtime, Red Route One, Two Eagles River,
Interlock Empire, Harlocap, Bourbon Bash. Scratched: Kolomio.
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs.
VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

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