Some of the luster from Classic Empire’s victory in the Arkansas Derby was lost after speed figures for the 1 1/8-mile race, which was run in 1:48.93, came back with plenty left to be desired.
Beyer assigned Classic Empire a 94, which does not even make Daily Racing Form’s best Beyers chart for three-year-olds. Equibase assigned the effort a pokey 103, below the top 10 Equibase figures for three-year-old males. Brisnet marked the effort down at a 96, which fits in decently with his age group, while TimeformUS gave the effort a below-par 115.
Let me make this abundantly clear: Take these numbers with a grain of salt.
First of all, let us remember that Classic Empire was making his second start since early November and hadn’t seen competition since failing to fire in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull Stakes (G2), due to a hoof abscess. He then encountered back issues that caused him to miss two scheduled works after recovering from the abscess.
With this in mind, no matter how good his works looked, there was no way this colt was 100 percent coming into Saturday’s race.
Secondly, take a look at Classic Empire’s trip in Little Rock — it was nothing short of horrendous! First, he bobbles at the break. Then, after he regains his balance and begins to move up, his progress is quickly stymied as Rockin’ Rudy and Petrov shut a hole that he had already begun to move through, forcing him to check. That check caused him to get shuffled back, costing him vital positioning.
From there, jockey Julien Leparoux angled the colt outwards, trying to find a clear path. It appeared that he had found one only to have Malagacy rush up to his outside and drop over, forcing him to check once again. This time, the loss in momentum made it possible for Untrapped to move up to Classic Empire’s outside, causing a horseracing sandwich in which trainer Mark Casse’s colt was the filling between Rockin’ Rudy and Untrapped.
Through the backstretch and around the far turn, Classic Empire was in a box, unable to make a move, allowing several key contenders to get sizable jumps on him. Turning into the stretch, he found himself behind a wall of horses and had to swing four wide to circle it. By this point, Malagacy and Conquest Mo Money had distanced themselves from the field and were not stopping.
Yet, despite all this, once clear, Classic Empire hit a new gear and surged home, completing his final furlong in 12 1/5 seconds. The late burst of speed carried him past the very game runner-up, Conquest Mo Money, by a half-length.
None of the figures listed above factor in a horse’s trip or ground loss; therefore, to use these figures at face value, without noting Classic Empire’s difficult trip, would be ill advised. It is plausible that Classic Empire encountered five lengths worth of trouble, which, if that were the case, his Bris Figure would be closer to 99, with his Beyer being approximately 102. TimeformUS equates one length equal to 1.4 points at a distance of 9 furlongs, meaning that Classic Empire ran closer to a 122.
In other words, his numbers compare very favorably with the best of his generation, while approaching his own career highs. Should he move forward off this effort, it is quite possible that we could see a third Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion donned in roses.