Classic Empire Shows His Class to Win Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Classic Empire won for the fourth time in five career starts Saturday, capturing the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Classic Empire was the second choice of bettors (9-2) in front of a Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup record crowd of 72,811, and he held off a late rally by the 5-2 favorite Not This Time in what became a two-horse race to the finish.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux and trained by Kentucky-based Mark Casse, Classic Empire stalked the leader Syndegaard through 6 furlongs in 1:10.48. The son of Pioneer of the Nile then showed his class as they turned for home, taking over and kicking clear into the upper stretch. Classic Empire kept on and dug in gamely to fend off Not This Time to win by a neck. The final time over 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.60 and Classic Empire paid $11, $5 and $3.80. Not This Time returned $4.60 and $3.40. Practical Joke was more than seven lengths further back in third and paid $4.60 to show.
“Couple things amaze me about this horse,” trainer Mark Casse said. “When he won the Bashford Manor at Churchill in June … I’ve been training for 37 years and I thought he was the most impressive 2-year-old winner that I’d ever trained. …
“[Two months later] I said to a few people … we’re going to win the Hopeful today, it’s just a matter of how far. Then, of course, he put me back into reality.”
In his only loss, Classic Empire took a sharp right turn out of the gate and unseated his rider in the Hopeful at Saratoga.
Classic Empire’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory likely secures him as 2-year-old male champion. The win was the second World Championships triumph for owner John Oxley, whose Beautiful Pleasure won the 1999 Distaff at Gulfstream Park. It was the third Breeders’ Cup win for Casse and seventh for Leparoux and first in the Juvenile for both.