Juvenile champion Classic Empire underwent his first training exercise on Monday following a disappointing third-place effort in the Holy Bull, according to the Daily Racing Form. The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof The Nile was found to have an abscess festering in his right front foot shortly after the Feb. 4 race at Gulfstream Park, the colt's 2017 debut, in which he was beaten 8 3/4 lengths by Irish War Cry.
“I've always called it a ‘gravel,' ” said trainer Mark Casse, using another term for hoof abscess. “It's not what you'd call a quarter crack. It runs horizontally and doesn't go up to the coronet band. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was about a 9; there was quite a bit of pus that came out. A lot of times, these things will fester forever and linger on, but his busted open right away. Obviously, we're hoping we got lucky with it and can move forward. Race-wise, if we determine that he's completely sound and ready to go, we'd have a lot of options, from the Fountain of Youth, the Tampa Bay Derby, and beyond.”
Typically, once the infection from a hoof abscess has been allowed to drain, the horse will heal very quickly. That said, Casse will refrain from making a final decision on Classic Empire's next start “until after we see how he reacts to this foot. Norm (Casse's son and assistant trainer) said the horse was as sharp as can be this morning. That was really good news.”
In other news, Casse has another possible Derby candidate in his barn. Classic Empire's owner John Oxley and owner Gary Barber have purchased a majority interest in Lookin for Eight, a maiden winner at Gulfstream on the Jan. 28 Pegasus World Cup undercard. That colt, a son of Lookin at Lucky out of a Mineshaft mare, could be pointing to either the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct or the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream; both races are on March 4.
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