Champion Classic Empire is scheduled to gallop on Saturday morning following an easy week at Saratoga, according to assistant trainer Norman Casse.
If he comes out of the gallop well, the classic-placed colt will breeze next weekend.
“We’re giving him a little bit of time between works with the idea of training him up to the (August 26) Travers (Stakes [G1]) and, so far, it’s worked,” said Casse, who is an assistant to his trainer father, Mark Casee. “He’s looked really good the last two mornings and he’ll start galloping again (Saturday).”
Classic Empire had been pointing for the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 31, but on July 16 was withdrawn from consideration for that 1 1/8-mile contest. The bay son of Pioneerof the Nile was honored as the 2016 champion two-year-old male after taking all but one of his five juvenile starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). His lone loss came when the Kentucky-bred lost his rider at the start of the Hopeful Stakes (G1) last September at Saratoga.
“The good thing here (at Saratoga) has been the Oklahoma (training) track,” Casse noted. “We’ve never had any difficulties there. After the Hopeful (G1) debacle last year, we started taking him to the training track immediately and we’ve never had a bad day over there. He likes the Oklahoma track, so we’ve got that in our back pocket.
“That’s where he’ll do the majority of his training and hopefully he’ll have a good month, month and a half going into the Travers, and we’ll be comfortable knowing that he’s ready to run.”
Classic Empire returned in February to be a well-beaten third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) but captured the Arkansas Derby (G1) next out, good for a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate. He ran fourth in that classic contest before just missing by a head in the Preakness Stakes (G1) last out. A recurring abscess in his right front hoof saw the colt scratch from the Belmont Stakes (G1).
“Hopefully we can just get him into a regular work routine leading up to the Travers,” Casse added. “His problems are well documented, we just kind of embrace it now. He’s kind of like an athlete that doesn’t really like training too much.”