Temperamental 3-year-old Classic Empire has officially been taken out of consideration for the Sept. 23 Pennsylvania Derby, trainer Mark Casse told drf.com on Monday. The Pioneerof the Nile colt had recently shipped from Saratoga, where he'd refused to train on several occasions, back to Casse's farm in Ocala. It was a move that worked for Classic Empire leading up to the Arkansas Derby, but the colt is still not up to par.
“We're not going to make the Pennsylvania Derby,” Casse said. “He's doing fine, but I still haven't got him where I want him. We're going along, playing it day by day. I'm not going to worry about a race. I want to get him where I'm happy with him.”
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has confounded his trainer several times in 2017, beginning with an abscess discovered after he'd finished third in the G2 Holy Bull. Several times afterward, Classic Empire refused to train and was diagnosed with back problems, though Casse managed to have him ready for the Arkansas Derby via his Ocala training facility, Winding Oaks Farm.
Shipped from Oaklawn to Churchill Downs, Classic Empire continued to behave under the control of his favored exercise rider from Ocala. He was badly bumped at the start of the Kentucky Derby, but ran on well to finish fourth. In the Preakness, Classic Empire was narrowly out-finished by Cloud Computing.
Casse then intended to start him in the Belmont Stakes, but the colt came up with another abscess on the day entries were taken. In July, Classic Empire went to Saratoga, but he showed his reluctance to train on multiple occasions, forcing his connections to skip a planned start in last Saturday's Travers. Casse had indicated that the colt would point to the Pennsylvania Derby, but that plan has been scrapped as well.
According to Equibase, Classic Empire has not had any recent recorded breezes.
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