Casse: Classic Empire ‘A Work In Progress,’ But Don’t Count Him Out Just Yet

by | 03.05.2017 | 6:51pm
Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) wins the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux up, Mark Casse trainer, John Oxley owner.

After champion juvenile Classic Empire refused to work on Friday, rumors began to circulate that the son of Pioneerof the Nile was off the Kentucky Derby trail for good. Trainer Mark Casse was able to determine that the cause of his poor behavior was linked to pain in his back, and brought in an equine therapist to assist the colt the very next morning, according to

Classic Empire also struggled with a hoof abscess, which explained his poor performance in his 2017 bow when he finished third in the Holy Bull on Feb. 4. The John Oxley-owned colt required several days to fully drain and heal the abscess, but had returned to training regularly at Palm Meadows Training Center. Asked to work for the first time since the Holy Bull on Friday, Classic Empire refused. After his work with the therapist, Classic Empire was much improved, and assistant trainer Norm Casse posted this video of him playing in the round pen Sunday morning.

“There is a very good shot the issue with his foot ended up causing the back issue,” Casse explained. “Anyone that has had any kind of injury, when you change your gait, it can hurt your back. So possibly the foot bruise and him being off and traveling different affected his back in some way. He's a work in progress. But the good news is we still have a lot of time and I wouldn't count us out yet.”

Casse is still targeting the G2 Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland for the four-time winner's final prep before the Kentucky Derby. Classic Empire will return to training after walking for several more days, and Casse feels there is enough time to have the colt ready by April 8.


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