02/15/2017 1:36PM

Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Classic Empire

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Barbara D. Livingston
Classic Empire gives Pioneerof the Nile another classics hopeful.

Classic Empire

Pioneerof the Nile-Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief

(Bred in Kentucky by Steven and Brandi Nicholson; $475,000 purchase by John Oxley at 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale)

Classic Empire, who debuts as the favorite on Mike Watchmaker’s Kentucky Derby future line, became the second Eclipse Award champion juvenile in three seasons for sire Pioneerof the Nile.

The first? American Pharoah, who followed his 2014 championship by sweeping the 2015 Triple Crown.

No pressure.

Classic Empire represents another solid shot at the classics for Pioneerof the Nile, who is cementing his reputation as a source of stamina. The Empire Maker horse, who scored all his own wins at a mile or longer, hinted at this prowess with his first crop, as Cairo Prince won the 2014 Holy Bull Stakes, Vinceremos won the Sam F. Davis and finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby, and Social Inclusion finished third in both the Wood Memorial and Preakness Stakes. Emerging from Pioneerof the Nile’s second crop was American Pharoah, who ripped through the Triple Crown and won five other Grade 1 events in his career, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Pioneerof the Nile’s other stakes horses also have done their best running at route distances, including graded-stakes-winning fillies Dark Nile and Jojo Warrior, as well as Midnight Storm and Cash Control, both graded winners on turf.

On the bottom side of his page, Classic Empire, a two-time Grade 1 winner at 1 1/16 miles, has already answered some distance questions posed by his immediate female family. His dam, the placed Cat Thief mare Sambuca Classica, has produced four winners from as many starters – but only Classic Empire has won at a distance beyond six furlongs. Classic Empire’s half-sister Uptown Twirl is a multiple stakes winner at six furlongs, having taken last year’s Surfside Stakes and Pleasanton Oaks.

Class and stamina abound further back in the pedigree. Classic Empire’s second dam is stakes winner and multiple stakes producer In Her Glory, who finished third in both the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes and Gazelle Handicap. It is the extended family of several other outstanding racemares, including champion Revidere, whose top-level wins included the Coaching Club American Oaks and who also was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Princessnesian, who won the Hollywood Gold Cup. Several other runners descended from this family in modern years have served as further evidence of its stamina, including 2002 Florida Derby and Blue Grass winner Harlan’s Holiday, who added the Donn Handicap as an older horse, and the indefatigable Grade 1-winning turf horse Twilight Eclipse.

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