Classic Empire jumped back to the top ranks of Kentucky Derby contention in weekend racing while Lady Aurelia earned a return ticket to England and Lady Eli suffered yet another tough loss.
Stellar Wind got her season off to a smashing start while Whitmore emerged as a potential sprint star.
Internationally, the All-Weather Championships in England continue to spread their impact, producing a potential Group 1 candidate for Hong Kong. And Al Ain took the Japanese 2,000 Guineas.
No additional guineas — or lire or Euros — required here. Simply read on:
The Road to the Roses
Classic Empire is back. Last year’s juvenile champ and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner rallied four-wide after a patient trip in the $1 million Grade I Arkansas Derby and got by the embattled pair of Conquest Mo Money and Malagacy. Conquest Mo Money held on for second while Lookin at Lee was rolling late to take third, followed by Sonneteer, Malagacy and Untrapped.
Classic Empire, a Pioneerof the Nile colt trained by Mark Casse, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.93 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. He finished third in the Grade III Holy Bull in his only previous start as a 3-year-old as a result of an interrupted training schedule. Before that, he was undefeated against top company save for a mishap at the start of the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga where he unseated Irad Ortiz Jr. That was his only start with any rider other than Leparoux.
Leparoux said Classic Empire felt “much better” Saturday than for the Holy Bull. “In the Holy Bull he was just not himself, I was laying third, but I didn’t feel like I had too much horse at that time,” Leparoux said. “So today I knew I was loaded. I just needed to get there.”
Casse added, “He just has so much ability. I knew if we could get him here that he’d be tough. He’s been a challenge, but the last month and a half have been good — a lot of chapters to the book I’m writing.” He said Classic Empire will head back to Churchill Downs. “That’s home…