Classic Empire is a possibility to breeze this weekend for the first time in more than two months, trainer Mark Casse said at his barn Thursday. The Pioneerof the Nile colt has not worked officially since June 2, being pulled from the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes because of a hoof abscess and skipping the Grade 1 Haskell last week at Monmouth Park. The 2016 champion 2-year-old male has not raced since finishing second to Cloud Computing in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 20.
“He was a happy camper this morning, but we still haven’t made any decisions,” Casse said. “We might breeze him this weekend. We’re waiting for him to tell us when he’s ready to go.
“He just hasn’t had as much energy, day-to-day,” he added. “He’ll have a good day and then he’ll have kind of an off-day. He’s behaving perfectly. It’s just his energy level. His foot seems to be great. I thought he moved great this morning.”
Casse said Classic Empire reminds him of Tepin, the two-time Eclipse Champion Grass Mare, who skipped racing last summer at Saratoga after appearing what Casse termed “very, very dull” at the time. Tepin eventually ran second in the Grade 1 First Lady and Breeders’ Cup Mile. After discussing the situation with Classic Empire owner John Oxley, Casse said they would not rush any decisions.
“He’s a little bit like Tepin. I see some similarities from this time last year,” Casse said. “He likes it chillier, too. I don’t want to give a specific date because then everyone is disappointed if we don’t do it.
“Instead of us telling him what we want him to do, we’re going to let him tell us what he wants to do.”
Casse said he is excited to see 2-year-old Mo Diddley make his stakes debut in the Grade 2, $ 200,000 Saratoga Special on August 13 for juveniles at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track.
The Uncle Mo colt won his debut on May 18, finishing a head of Make Noise in the 4 1/2-furlong sprint at Churchill Downs.
“We’re really excited and think he [can be] a superstar,” Casse said. “He’s only started one time. Watching the head-on [camera], they broke and he took a right-hand turn, which 2-year-olds often do when they break on the outside the first time. He went out of the picture and then all of a sudden, he reappeared and he still won.
“We were impressed by that, but more importantly have been impressed with how he’s trained since. We think he’s a good horse. Right now, we think he could possibly be our next Classic Empire.”
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