Classic Empire put together a textbook run Saturday at the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, staying just off the pace and putting together a stretch run that held off favorite Not This Time by a neck.
The son of Pioneer of the Nile, the sire of American Pharoah, broke cleanly and stalked pace-setter Syndergaard for about six furlongs before making his move on the far turn. He clearly established himself as the front runner heading into the homestretch, then held off a hard-charging Not This Time to squeak out the victory.
Practical Joke finished 7 1/2 lengths back of the two to finish third. Lookin at Lee finished fourth.
The win was the fourth in five starts for Classic Empire, whose only loss resulted from him unseating his rider in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. he has clearly established himself as a favorite in the 2017 Kentucky Derby with the win here. Lately, Breeder’s Cup winners tend to do well at the Derby; last year’s Breeder’s Cup Juvenile winner, Nyquist, went on to win the 2016 Derby.
According to ESPN, both Classic Empire and Not This Time will winter in Florida, which means more showdowns in some Derby prep races.