01/23/2017 3:39PM

Classic Empire has tough act to follow

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Debbie Roma
Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire is by Pioneerof the Nile - also the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Classic Empire has a lot to live up to.

The colt became the second Eclipse Award champion juvenile in three years for sire Pioneerof the Nile on Saturday night. The first of those champion youngsters? American Pharoah, who followed his 2014 championship season by sweeping the Triple Crown, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and earning Horse of the Year honors in 2015.

Classic Empire is preparing for his 3-year-old debut in the Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park. He will try to give Pioneerof the Nile another classic runner of distinction from his nascent stud career. Social Inclusion, the 2014 Preakness third-place finisher, emerged from his first crop, and American Pharoah from his second.

Pioneerof the Nile, who stands at WinStar Farm, finished third on the 2016 juvenile sire list by earnings. He ranks 13th on DRF’s Beyer Sire Performance Standings based on his individual juveniles to earn a Beyer of 80 or higher – a benchmark of quality in that division. He is one of a relatively small group of stallions who had 2-year-olds record a 90 or higher last season and is among only four sires with a juvenile recording a triple-digit figure. Classic Empire earned a 102 in winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

:: 2016 BEYER SIRE PERFORMANCE STANDINGS: Download complete 2016 divisional sire charts

Off his 2016 success in a market that values precocity, Pioneerof the Nile has garnered an outstanding book for 2017, including Sambuca Classica, the dam of Classic Empire, and Love the Chase, the dam of California Chrome. Other mares booked to him include champions Forever Together and Questing; Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia; Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria; Grade 1 winners Book Review, Embellish the Lace, Iotapa, Joyful Victory, Lighthouse Bay, and Malibu Prayer; and Cat Chat, More Hennessy, My Tina, and Shop Again, all of whom have produced Grade 1 winners. My Tina is the dam of Pioneerof the Nile’s Grade 1 turf-stakes winner Midnight Storm.