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.

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.

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