Classic Empire May Rule Breeders' Futurity

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Classic Empire

By Lenny Shulman, courtesy of Blood-Horse

A dozen freshmen will attempt to establish themselves at two turns in the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (gr. I) going 1 1/16 miles Oct. 8 at Keeneland.

Classic Empire won his first two races before losing his rider at the start of the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) last out at Saratoga Race Course, where he was the favorite. He won the Bashford Manor (gr. III) from off the pace going seven furlongs, but has had issues leaving the gate in all three of his races. If he can get a clean break, he is the one to beat here.

"I’m never overconfident because I just know there’s so many things that can happen, but I was very, very confident in Classic Empire in the Hopeful," trainer Mark Casse said. "I didn’t think there was any way he would get beat, and then of course for him to pull what he pulled. Since then, we’ve added blinkers. He’s breezed out of the gate a few times. He has trained as good as a horse can train, so hopefully he shows up with his 'A' game, he runs a big race. We still have high hopes for him and we hope to make the Breeders’ Cup with him."

No Dozing is perfect in two starts in the Midlantic and has displayed ability to stalk and pounce. Although both wins came at six furlongs, the son of Union Rags —Stay Awake, by Pulpit, should have no trouble stretching out if he runs to his pedigree. Bitumen won the Sanford Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga but faltered in the Hopeful, finishing far back. The rail post won’t help much here.

Another Spa winner, Gunnevera, lines up just outside Bitumen. He took the Saratoga Special (gr. II) in snappy time and has won two in a row. Perro Rojo won going a mile and 70 yards last out at Delta Downs in modest time, one of two for Calumet Farm in here. The other is Wild Shot, who scored at six furlongs but must carry his speed farther.

Lookin At Lee draws outside after a distant runner-up finish in the Iroquois (gr. III). He needs to carry his Ellis Park form to the big time. Honor Thy Father has flashed early speed, but failed to carry it in the Iroquois, fading to fourth. Holiday Bonus checked in second in the Sapling at Monmouth at a mile and continues to work well for this engagement.

Tiz Trevor and Singing Bullet are both Ellis Park winners at 6 ½ furlongs, although the latter went faster. Blame Will set the early pace and then faltered in the Iroquois, finishing seventh. He is a Saratoga maiden winner.