One year after American Pharoah was named Horse of the Year, Pioneerof the Nile could have his second champion in as many years after Classic Empire triumphed in Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Classic Empire’s win made him racing’s newest millionaire, and also the third horse by Pioneerof the Nile to reach that milestone and the second, along with American Pharoah, to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
In a very evenly matched field, Classic Empire got a good jump from post six and sat just off the heels of Syndergaard, who went through the first half-mile in a sensible and solid :46.60. The top two raced together around the final turn, when Classic Empire asserted himself and set sail for the finish.
While Syndergaard began to fade, Classic Empire was faced with the late charge of Not This Time, who tried to close the gap, but came up a neck short.
"He broke sharp and I put him in the race right away," jockey Julien Leparoux said of Classic Empire. "I tried to open up coming to the quarter pole, which he did and held off Not This Time. We really love him and we knew he was going to run good, so I'm glad we got the win."
“What amazes me is this horse's ability to have such a high cruising speed,” said winning trainer Mark Casse. “And maybe that's another thing that makes this so special. He's an extremely, extremely smart horse, and he tends to see things that maybe others don't, and you never know what he's going to kind of do."
With wins in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and the Bashford Manor S. (G3) on his docket, Classic Empire is the favorite to be named Eclipse Champion 2-year-old for 2015. His overall record stands at 4-0-0 in five starts, with earnings of $1,485,920 for owner John Oxley.
"Obviously our goal is the first Saturday in May," Casse added, looking forward to the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1).