In order to prepare for the 2017 Belmont, Classic Empire has enlisted the help of Airoforce who many race fans may remember from the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf where he came second. Norman Casse, the son of Mark Casse, has been on hand to oversee the preparation for the final leg of the Triple Crown.
“Ideally, when we design our sets we put horses together that will go head to head with the other horse to give them company and give them incentive to go,” said the younger Casse. “Airoforce has always been a good workmate for him. He was working with him down in Ocala, so it seemed like a perfect scenario. But they got such a big, big run to the pole that I think it just showed you how tired a horse like Airoforce can get just trying to keep up with a horse like Classic Empire, because he was done in the turn.”
Beating out Airoforce, who was a popular outside shot in the 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby before falling short, is one thing. Besting so many colts in their prime from the 2017 Belmont field is an entirely different matter altogether. “All things considered, I thought the work was perfect,” Casse continued. “We weren’t trying to go faster than :49, :50 anyway and he had plenty left galloping out. Nothing is orthodox about the way we have to train Classic Empire.”
There is overall concern about whether or not Classic Empire can complete the Triple Crown from an entry standpoint. He is one of two horses, along with Lookin At Lee (who is probable), to compete in the 2017 Belmont Stakes after also running in the previous two legs. Both have done well, splitting 2nd and 4th in each race.
Casse addressed this by saying, “I think the Preakness was where he was at his peak, and I don’t think the race took much out of him at all. He’s shown a lot of enthusiasm in the mornings since we’ve gotten back, so I think he reached his peak fitness-wise at Pimlico. Now we’ll see as he runs regularly. He’s only going to get better from here, because I think he still has a lot to do maturity-wise. The more he runs, the more professional he’ll get.”
Classic Empire remains one of the more favourable bets in the 2017 Belmont Stakes simply because he’s a known commodity. He is trending in the right direction moving from 4th to 2nd, but the 1 1/2 mile distance of the race makes mice of men, so to speak. There’s just so much that can happen over that gruelling contest, but Classic Empire definitely seems ready for the task.