11/06/2016 2:13PM

Classic Empire, Not This Time, target Kentucky Derby

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Emily Shields
Classic Empire, right, will head to south Florida to prepare for his 3-year-old campaign.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Classic Empire and Not This Time, the two Kentucky-based 2-year-olds who ran 1-2 in Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, will soon head to South Florida for the winter to prepare for their 3-year-old campaigns.

Their connections hope those preparations lead to starts in the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

Classic Empire held off Not This Time by a neck to win the Juvenile and likely secure the 2-year-old male championship. It was 7 1/2 lengths back to third-place finisher Practical Joke, who was a two-time Grade 1 winner going in.

“That’s always impressive, when they can draw away from a good field,” Mark Casse, Classic Empire's trainer, said Sunday morning at Santa Anita.

Classic Empire ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.60; both colts got a Beyer Speed Figure of 102. Consider that Nyquist, last year’s Juvenile winner, earned an 89 Beyer for that race and whose lifetime best number was the 103 he earned winning the Kentucky Derby.

Casse said Classic Empire came out of his race in good order and will ship to Kentucky on Tuesday or Wednesday. Ultimately, he will be sent to south Florida and the Palm Meadows training center. He will likely run two or three times at Gulfstream Park in preparation for the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

The Gulfstream series of races for 3-year-olds includes the $350,000 Holy Bull on Feb. 4, the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on March 4 and the $1 million Florida Derby on April 1.

“He doesn’t take a lot of training and he’s shown he can run big off a layoff,” Casse said. “His race in the Breeders’ Futurity was pretty impressive off a three-month layoff. He’ll tell us when he wants to run. I do believe in running them. There’s a chance he could have three [starts].”

With his wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Futurity, Classic Empire has 30 qualifying points toward a berth in the Kentucky Derby under a system utilized by Churchill Downs if the race draws more than 20 entrants.

Classic Empire, a son of Pioneerof the Nile owned by John Oxley, is already a two-time winner at Churchill Downs having won his maiden and the Grade 3 Bashford Manor there in the spring/summer meeting.

Not This Time, who entered the Juvenile off an 8 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, was expected to ship back to Kentucky and would remain there for about a month before heading to south Florida, trainer Dale Romans said.

Romans said he was pleased with his colt’s performance and believes his colt has plenty of room for improvement.

“You have to be pleased, anybody who wasn’t pleased with that race isn’t going to last long in this game,” Romans said.

Romans said he and Casse are longtime friends and he’s looking forward to the budding rivalry between these two colts that could continue during the Gulfstream meet. Not This Time will be based at Gulfstream, Romans said

“Those are two truly special horses that ran 1-2,” Romans said. “It’ll be a fun run to the Triple Crown. Let’s hope they both stay healthy. Let’s get some excitement going.”