Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile-Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief), champion 2-year-old colt of 2016, has been retired from racing and will stand at Coolmore America's Ashford Stud in 2018, it was announced Wednesday. A two-time Grade I winner at two, having annexed the GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (video) and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile (video), Classic Empire captured the GI Arkansas Derby (video) this April and most recently ran second in the May 20 GI Preakness S.
“Unfortunately we just ran out of time to get him to the [Nov. 4 GI] Breeders' Cup Classic,” said trainer Mark Casse. “I could never get him completely over his foot abscess and it wasn't possible to train him the way I needed in order to bring him back at the highest level, which is where he deserved to be. He's an extremely talented horse that can do anything and he overcame a lot of adversity to achieve what he did. I still believe he was the most talented horse of his generation.”
Classic Empire retires with a record of 9-5-1-1 and earnings of $2,520,220. Bred in Kentucky by Steven and Brandi Nicholson, the colt was acquired by owner John Oxley for $475,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.
“Classic Empire was an exceptionally talented 2-year-old,” said Ashford's Director of Sales Charlie O'Connor.” He broke his maiden over 4 1/2 furlongs in early May and ended his juvenile campaign winning a very strong running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile for which he earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. Not only was he the champion 2-year-old, but he backed it up again this year with a Grade I win at three. His brilliance on the track is reinforced with a pedigree full of black type that traces back to Harlan's Holiday. We couldn't be more excited to be standing him.”
A stud fee will be announced at a later date.