07/02/2016 9:13PM

Classic Empire enjoys extra distance in Bashford Manor

Coady Photography
Classic Empire rallies from far back under Julien Leparoux to win the Bashford Manor by three-quarters of a length.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Classic Empire made the most of all 1,234 1/2 feet of the Churchill Downs stretch while signaling that he’s a horse with a future.

Classic Empire surged by heavy favorite Recruiting Ready in the final strides to win the 115th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes by three-quarters of a length Saturday night. The colt appeared to relish the added ground he got in the six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds, putting him in a promising position as distances begin to stretch out for the division.

“The way that he breezes and trains in the morning, he's much more effective when he's able to go out and relax and settle into stride,” said Norm Casse, the head assistant to his father, Mark. “Sprinting is obviously not something where you get to do that. So going forward, I think he's definitely going to be much more effective around two turns.”

Recruiting Ready, who was coming off a 10 1/4-length debut win in May in which he flirted with a Pimlico track record, was away swiftly from the outside post in the field of nine, and quickly cleared the field through an opening quarter-mile in 21.76 seconds. He still led by a measured length and was moving easily through the half in 45.07. Meanwhile, Classic Empire ($11.40), who had ducked in at the start while breaking from the rail under Julien Leparoux, was seventh after a quarter-mile and had worked his way up to fourth after a half, but was still 6 1/2 lengths back of the leader.

Classic Empire shifted into the three path to take dead aim on Recruiting Ready, who led by 3 1/2 lengths and looked home free in midstretch. But the eventual winner simply inhaled ground inside the final sixteenth to run down the favorite – also convincing Leparoux that he will be better going longer.

“The other one left there quick, but I knew my horse was running,” Leparoux said. “At the quarter pole, I knew he was going to run good, but I didn’t know if he was going to catch him or not. The first time he won at 4 1/2 furlongs, it was almost too quick for him, and he still won. Today at six furlongs, he liked it a bit more.”

The top two were well clear of the rest of the field, with Tip Tap Tapizar, nine lengths back in third. The final time was the second-fastest in the race’s history, 1:09.39.

A son of classic sire Pioneerof the Nile, Classic Empire was a $474,000 purchase by prominent Casse client John Oxley out of last fall's Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt came into the Bashford Manor off a 1 1/2-length debut victory on May 4 at Churchill Downs, in which he looked to finish full of run after also being slow to get into stride.

“He’s still a little shy, and you could tell when he broke, he broke in a little bit,” Norm Casse said. “But it ended up working out to his advantage – the pace set up for him, and he was able to run down a really talented horse today. I really have a lot of respect for the horse that he beat. And he's something we can all look forward to.”