John Oxley’s newly minted Eclipse Award winner Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) makes his much-anticipated sophomore debut against eight other rivals in Saturday’s GII Lambholm South Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream Park.
The $475,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase will be having his first start since his tenacious defeat of Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway) in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita three months in the rear view. The bay colt should take all the beating, as he holds both a class and speed-figure advantage over the field, but trainer Mark Casse is not taking anything for granted.
“Last week we ran in a $12-million race, but there was no pressure,” Casse remarked, referring to Noble Bird (Birdstone) in the GI Pegasus World Cup. “Saturday it’s a $350,000 race and there’ll be tons of pressure. We’ll definitely be feeling it for sure.
He added, “You’re always anxious off a layoff to get going. We’re ready. All systems are ‘go.’ We’re excited to get going. It’s the first step.”
Classic Empire, whose sire accounted for 2014 Holy Bull hero Cairo Prince, drew nicely in gate three with an abbreviated run into the first turn going the two-turn, 8 1/2-furlong trip. Julien Leparoux, who has been in the saddle for each of the colt’s four career victories, has the return call.