02/20/2017 7:43AM

Classic Empire will skip Fountain of Youth

Barbara D. Livingston
Classic Empire is fighting a hoof abscess, but shouldn't miss any major training, said trainer Mark Casse.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Mark Casse said Sunday that Classic Empire will not make the March 4 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, as had been tentatively planned, but that any subsequent prep race for the May 6 Kentucky Derby remains possible for him.

The reigning divisional champion, Classic Empire was scheduled to breeze Monday morning toward the Fountain of Youth, but that plan has been scrapped because of a nagging hoof abscess.

Casse noted that Classic Empire has galloped daily at the Palm Meadows training center since Feb. 13 after recovering sufficiently from the injury, diagnosed after the colt finished third in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull in his 3-year-old debut.

“He’s not going to miss any training,” said Casse. “I just want the foot to heal a little better. Making the Fountain of Youth isn’t that important to us. We still have plenty of time and we want to do the right thing by the horse.”

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Casse said having a breeze Monday would have been an important step toward the Fountain of Youth, but now he’ll wait another week or so for the colt’s next work while considering other preps, including the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs.

“We plan to give him another week of galloping and reassess things from there,” he said. “I’m not going to put any pressure on myself or the horse to make this particular race.”

Casse said the abscess on the right front hoof “still has a touch of drainage.”

“We tub it and ice him – everything we’re supposed to be doing,” he said.
Classic Empire, owned by John Oxley, won four of five starts last year, ending with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The Pioneerof the Nile colt was the favorite among all individual wagering interests in the first two pools in the 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager; the mutuel field was the overall favorite in both. Pool 3 in the Derby futures, as well as a Kentucky Oaks futures pool, will be offered this coming Friday-Sunday by Churchill Downs.