Updated: Champion Classic Empire Refuses To Work Just 19 Days Before Blue Grass

by | 03.20.2017 | 2:00pm
Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) wins the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux up, Mark Casse trainer, John Oxley owner.
Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) wins the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux up, Mark Casse trainer, John Oxley owner.

Juvenile champion Classic Empire apparently refused to break off for a workout on Sunday at Palm Meadows, according to drf.com. The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof The Nile has only managed a single workout since his disappointing third-place effort in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull, but connections had been optimistic, aiming the colt for the April 8 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. That race is now just 19 days away.

“He went out and he started off and just didn't want to go,” Casse told bloodhorse.com. “My thought is that he's had a lot of things happen to him there and maybe it's just not a great place for him.

“So after that yesterday, we went ahead and sent him to Ocala, and this morning he was a happy camper and galloped beautiful. We went back to our roots, that's where he started.”

Casse went on to say that there didn't seem to be any physical issues with the juvenile champion, calling him a “happy, healthy horse.” The team's new plan is to breeze Classic Empire at Casse's training center in Ocala later this week, then send him up to Keeneland to prepare for the Blue Grass.

A hoof abscess was determined to be the cause of Classic Empire's poor performance in the Holy Bull, and lingering issues with the foot encouraged trainer Mark Casse to skip over the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. On March 3, attempting to work for the first time since the Holy Bull, Classic Empire refused to break off at the pole under Julien Leparoux, and back at the barn was diagnosed with back pain. An equine therapist seemed to be able to alleviate his back issues, and on March 12 Classic Empire breezed a half-mile in :48.95 at Palm Meadows.

Classic Empire has been labeled a “bad boy” in the past by assistant trainer Norm Casse, and the colt's third career start, the G1 Hopeful at Saratoga, demonstrated his unprofessional antics. He wheeled shortly after the start of the race, dumping his jockey and galloping around toward the back of the starting gate.

Read more at drf.com.

  • john

    Sometimes the stubborn ones turn out to be the best race horses. we shall see

    • Carla Parrillo

      Don’t most good athletes know their own bodies and when to train hard befor an event and to just train to stay stretched and limber.
      With changes in their connection workers don’t you think they must sense exchanges in the moods around them, we don’t give animals like this enough credit for what theyvkniwband why.

      • longtimehorsewoman

        Horses are highly intelligent and know what people around them think. No one gives horses the credit they deserve for thinking.

        • Carla Parrillo

          I learn new thing about horses all the time. Last year a group were referring to how smart horses are.
          Some in this circle are horses
          owners, others like myself are not horse owners. (But don’t love them any less)
          I brought a question to them.
          I learned years ago that horses can only be mounted to ride from the left.
          None ofbyhe people that’s at knew why.
          This information goes back to the history if the horse.
          Imagine with such small bralns this fact was stored in their memories to pass the information down the off springs for many centuries.
          The reason for this knowledge was because even back to Roman empire says soldiers ir owners wore swords as a weapon of protection. The sword hung on the left hand side. Mounting a horse on the right would endanger the horse and injure it.
          Why do horses. remember this little piece of history to pass on to the new offspring
          I think you have to say they are very smart!

  • Tinky

    My sources tell me that he heard about the downgrade, and refuses to contest other than Grade I events.

    • Mr. Blues

      Good one Tink

  • Quilla

    Geld him then find him a forever home. ;)

    • goodhorsekeeping

      Are you kidding or do you actually think a unanimously-voted for two-year-old champion is going to be gelded?

      • Anglokraut

        Well, he sure isn’t a race horse at this time; Kentucky isn’t exactly suffering a shortage of PotN bloodlines, either.

        • goodhorsekeeping

          He’s screaming pretty loudly that something is wrong. Pretty darn early to call it quits on his career, as the original post was implying.

        • HappyHarriet

          Are you NUTS? Did you read the article all the way through – all those paragraphs and sentences? Apparently you did NOT, as the article clearly says that once he relocated to Ocala he was perfectly normal and happy. Have you been tested for ADD lately?

          • Anglokraut

            Your emotion is misplaced.

          • erhrdtthree

            UNhappy Harriet, that was not necessary. Everyone has made a wise assessment of him (except you) and you criticize those with ADD. I request that her post be removed, Anglokraut did nothing but state the facts; as soon as a “hot” stallion gets down there, they are lining up at the stud farm with their mares and wrapping anything they can around their necks to write their ID’s on there. Complete chaos all day for the multi-stud farms.

      • Play Nice

        I dunno. He might refuse to jump a mare, too:-)

  • Rachel

    Maybe Mark Casse needs to call Jay Robbins…😜

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Do you mean Monty Roberts?

      • Christine Dix

        Please no

        • LongTimeEconomist

          He’s straightened out an enormous amount of horses. Even the Queen of England flew him over to get one of hers straightened out.

          • goodhorsekeeping

            He does not have a high degree of success with racehorses, and most of what he does have revolves exclusively around the starting gate. Frankly any competent and intuitive trainer can accomplish what he does. Without the gimmicks.

            I’ll never cease rolling my eyes on his insistence that he essentially created round-pen work (what he calls “Join-Up”) and working horses on the ground while riding a broke horse.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            Totally agree. The point of the round pen is to get the horse to give in and become submissive. Is that what we want? an in-depth study of his methods will reveal he is cruel.

          • goodhorsekeeping

            Whoa, that’s going pretty far. All I said is that Monty didn’t invent it. Round penning in and of itself is not cruel (although he, like most clinicians, likes being explosive). I think it is a great tool, personally.
            You don’t have to beat the horse up, you just want it paying attention. I personally use it for young horses getting started (especially useful for learning vocal cues), slowly bringing horses back into fitness, and for assessing soundness. I strongly prefer an extra large round pen with good footing over lunging for this, as I feel lunging in tiny circles is detrimental to joints. Especially for youngsters. It also keeps ME safer and away from spooky baby feet.

          • Carla Parrillo

            I’m not sure who Monty Roberts is. The last thing this poor Colt needs is someone to come along and use some harsh tough methods. I think he is trying to please all but senses the negative and hysterical waves his trainers and riders are sending.
            Check his visual ability. What images are projecting in front of him?
            …And MAYBE he really doesn’t like racing. Aybe he would be a better sprinter or even a great Olympic contender .
            …Just be patient with him. He has had it rough too.

          • LongTimeEconomist

            Monty is the exact opposite of harsh or tough. Put his name into Google and take a look at some of the many tapes there.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            you google him. Even his own family calls him a liar. try monty roberts truth. And I saw him on TV using a “bucking string” to keep a horse from bucking. String went from hocks to over horse’s gums so if horse bucked he really hurt himself. I do not consider that to be kind at all.

    • todd fortune

      Tiznow did not do this at 3. His debut was the third week in April, so he had not even started yet. To me this is severe, for a colt this young getting bored with the game this young.

  • Bella

    Perhaps another trainer could figure him out. I believe he is trying to tell people something. Not saying anything against Case..just know sometimes a change is a good thing.

    • Carla Parrillo

      Something is wrong for sure. He may be healed from the physical issues he faced but something else is definitely wrong. The colt is getting a reputation of being a typically high strung thoroghbred, he has proven to us he is trying to get a message across to us. He can’t setttle if everyone tenses up as soon as they have to handle him. Could be he needs calm and confidence around him to get and give positive results.
      Something is going on.
      How does he react if they let him just period. No pressure just at his own pace. If this was observed closer maybe a unnoticed problem will be seen.

  • Richard C

    An irate Classic Empire told the assembled media: If I can’t practice, I can’t practice man. If I’m hurt, I’m hurt. I mean … simple as that. It ain’t about that… I mean it’s… It’s not about that… At all. You know what I’m saying I mean… But it’s…it’s easy … to, to talk about… It’s easy to sum it up when you’re just talking about practice. We’re sitting in here, and I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice. Not a game. Not, not … Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game, but we’re talking about practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? … And we talking about practice. I know I supposed to be there. I know I’m supposed to lead by example… I know that… And I’m not.. I’m not shoving it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do… But we’re talking about practice man. What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man. We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. We’re talking about practice, man. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you see me play don’t you? You’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, right? But we’re talking about practice right now.

    • billy

      Lol >3 maybe CE needs some new AI’S….have a sick crossover move then

    • Mr. Blues

      Man that post sounds just like Allen Iverson ….It’s a philly thing.Anyone from philly understands the joke !!

      • Richard C

        I found an online transcript of Iverson’s epic monologue — and couldn’t resist a copy-n-paste.

        • Mr. Blues

          I just knew it had to be him …hahaha that was great

    • erhrdtthree

      LMFAO!!!! I remember coming home from work and watching every news station play and replay that! Hmmm…what DID happen to Iverson after that rant? Didn’t he just kind of float off into the everafter? Not sure but thanks for the incredible laughter! :)

    • Jordan

      Not as funny when you know why Iverson was upset.

    • Carla Parrillo

      I don’t know who Iverson is but this is really good.
      …I was thinking off the saying “Out of the mouth of babes” in this case it is right out of the mouth if horses.
      Imagine if they could tell have had they’re thinking.
      This is really well done.

  • kuzdal

    If he makes it to CD in a few weeks, this should make for interesting chatter between the commentators.

    BTW, where is John Veitch these days?

    • missedgehead

      He is back at his job.

  • Mindy

    the Toussaud & Storm Cat are strong in this one…

    • Elle D

      Yes. I’d previously mentioned he had a little Toussaud in him. He’s at Ocala Training Center now and galloped fine. Go figure.

      • Mindy

        galloping, yes, we’ll see if he wants to work, stay tuned…

        • Elle D

          As soon as he gets here to Keeneland, I’ll be interested in seeing what he does in the morning.

  • louisville race fan

    i’d like to see the results of a scintigraphy made public before i put 1 nickel on this horse let alone see him run in the derby

  • Concerned Observer

    What is in the head of a race horse is sometimes as important as whats in the body. Usually it is filly’s that get a phobia at a particular track or even a certain spot on the track, but it doesn’t mean that colts are immune to phobias. The move to a different spot….may work?

  • billy

    Smart horse better listen to him and make him happy horses don’t lie

    • Mr. Blues

      Got that right ! If you could have seen the Body language on California Chrome on Pegasus day you would have known he wasn’t going to run that day. I was there and you could just see it….waaaaaay off…

      • Carla Parrillo

        California Chrome acted up a little at the Breeders Cup too. At the gate.
        Very few noticed it.
        For me I thought that was wY out of Character for him. Something told me he’s as not going to win that one.
        For me it was the first time I actually saw him lose.
        …the Pegasus was just as crucial.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          I totally agree. Knew before he went in the gate it was not his day.

      • Carla Parrillo

        …And horses are born to run. But who loved running more than Chrome? But not that day!

    • Carla Parrillo

      Body language from most animal is usual loud and clear. It needa to be paid attention to.

  • Debra Sheffield

    The good ones know when something is amiss, he needs to be re-evaluated, given time off!!!

    • Carla Parrillo

      I watched him and read his latest reaction to the track would it be possible that even before the abscess issue he has a vision problem.
      During another race prior to the one when they scratched him he reacted to the gate the same way? Though he was fine in the post parade.
      His last workout where he stopped again something unexpected got a reaction from him makng him stop. You have to wonder if he gets a sudden change in the images he sees?
      You could see how scared he became of these approaches.
      …Maybe worth checking out his eyes. Not for basic vision but it could go deeper.,

  • West Wind

    The horse is talking – is the trainer listening?

    • Carla Parrillo

      Probably not.
      You know the horses are feeling the stress of the push. When they decided to work. It as if he is saying he knows the task niw, and after every thing he has just faced. He is not pushing himself ’till racingday.

  • McGov

    This horse needs a break. A patient approach with this horse could result in him reaching some very high levels, down the road. I’d certainly agree with the ‘back to the roots’ and freshening his mind…he is not liking his job too much right now.
    What a shame, he’s a really nice horse IMO. Hope to see him happy and relaxed one day soon!

    • Mr. Blues

      The change will do him good. Sometimes you just need a change in scenery. Get him healthy which makes him happy..

    • goodhorsekeeping

      I totally agree. This horse could be a nice BCC contender and has talent in spades. Ruining his body and mind (not to mention his record) to make the Derby is unfortunate. Don’t pull a Runhappy with this guy, Casse.

      • McGov

        He is still so young and immature. Casse is obviously feeling great pressure to pull a rabbit out of his hat regarding the Derby with this horse…..but the writing is on the wall now. To continue to try to jam the horse to meet the agenda ( ego? lol) of ht

    • Carla Parrillo

      I think he relates everything bad that has happened to him was on or near a track. He must be so afraid of having to encounter more.
      I agree patience, encouragment might go a long way with him.
      Just an inquiry is his vision okay.
      I just wonder if the gate entrance and certain parts of the track creating or directing towards how he perceives images.
      I remember hecwas anci at the gate a few times, even before his abscess.
      Just observing how hard he is trying to communicate.

  • UKBlue

    Can only imagine how bad this horse would flip out leading him over, in the paddock, and trying to get him to the gate on Derby Day.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Ear plugs.

    • Horse Whisper

      But he handled breeders cup pretty darn good

      • Ruffian31

        I was there and he was pretty worked up then, but you could tell he was going to run. This is a very talented horse but there is definitely something going on. I hope they don’t rush him to the Derby because that will just tear this horse apart if he’s not physically and mentally ready.

      • UKBlue

        LOL BC isn’t anywhere close to Derby Day.

  • Condor

    Lets hope he doesnt break down. Shame if he knows something his trainer doesnt.

    • Carla Parrillo

      After the kind of year the tracks have had, this would be par for the sport.

  • longtimehorsewoman

    Can it be more clear that the horse dislikes training?

  • jacob.bratcher

    This colt has more issues than Better Homes and Gardens.

  • igallop

    it’s interesting and entertaining reading all the comments and how “emotional” some people get! LOL…yes, yes, yes the horse is definitely trying to say something by refusing to work. Just a little common sense can take you a long ways. Hopefully Casse will do the right thing. Certainly isn’t his first rodeo. Popular trainers dont always do the right thing when they have owners itching to dance at the Ball. A lot of pressure on his shouiders here. And time is running out. With this controversy (and it certainly is one) the jockey will do the right thing when game day arrives and the gates open. …but i wont be betting on him…

    • Carla Parrillo

      With this reaction to the track and gate he could win or be a top 4.
      When all comes down to it his speed and ability could just out in him from wanting to get it over with. The faster he runs to The front the quicker the race will be over and that will be that

  • Audrey Gulla

    A lot of issues with this talented colt. I hope everything works out in his favour.

  • [email protected]

    We have seen this many times…California Chrome, Animal Kingdom at Ascot, Quality Road wouldn’t load in BC. These horses are smart athletes and know their limits. They give their all except when an innate override takes place. I had an event mare that was great until one event she would not leave the start box no matter what we tried. She knew she couldn’t handle it for some reason. I had to listen. If I were training Classic Empire I would take him home for the Spring and Summer and start back on a farm track to see if he is interested in his job in the Fall. If Casse does keep going, take him to Keeneland now and see what happens with a chilly fresh environment.

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