Classic Empire's dazzling stretch run carried the 2-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile to victory in Saturday night's Bashford Manor S. (G3) at Churchill Downs. The well-bred bay juvenile is now a perfect 2-for-2 for owner John Oxley.
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Classic Empire is the fourth graded stakes winner, and seventh overall, this year for Pioneerof the Nile, who leads all Fourth-Crop Sire in no less than five categories.
Content to settle into stride under Julien Leparoux, Classic Empire began his steady advance from seventh after a quarter-mile, weaving around and inside of horses but still a half-dozen lengths off the lead at the head of the stretch.
The 1-2 favorite Recruiting Ready had a three-length advantage in mid-stretch, but Classic Empire was fully of run and flew by the leader in deep stretch to win by three parts of a length in a very quick 1:09.39 on a fast main track.
“The pace set up for him and he was able to run down a very talented horse today,” said assistant trainer Norm Casse. “I really have a whole lot of respect for the horse that he beat and this is something we can all look forward to. I think that the way that he breezes and trains in the morning, he is more effective when he’s able to go out and relax and settle into stride. Sprinting is obviously something where you aren’t able to do that so going forward, he’s going to be more effective around two turns. He’ll go up and train at Saratoga and we’ll look for a race up there for him.”
Bred in Kentucky by Steve and Brandi Nicholson, Classic Empire's dam Sambuca Classica has produced four foals, with three of them stakes winners. Classic Empire upped his earnings to $85,920. The colt was a $475,000 purchase by his owner from last year's Keeneland September Yearling sale.