Classic Empire Leads Kentucky Derby Field

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(via KARK) — Six horses that raced this season at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, including Arkansas Derby champion Classic Empire, are entered in the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Saturday at Churchill Downs. Probable post time for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby, the first leg of racing’s Triple Crown, is 5:46 p.m. (Central).

Classic Empire is listed as the 4-1 morning-line favorite and will break from post position 14 under regular rider Julien Leparoux. The morning-line favorite has won the Kentucky Derby the past four years.

Classic Empire is the third Arkansas Derby winner since 2012 to be made the Kentucky Derby program favorite. Bodemeister (4-1) finished second in 2012. American Pharoah (5-2) won in 2015 en route to sweeping the Triple Crown. Like Classic Empire, he was also by Pioneerof the Nile.

“Classic Empire, the unanimous Eclipse Award-winning colt, breezed Friday morning over the sloppy surface at Churchill Downs in his last training session,” stated a Kentucky Derby news release issued Friday.

“We’re very happy with all of the preparations,” said assistant trainer Norm Casse. “We’re eager to get this weekend started.”

Other Oaklawn-raced horses entered in the Kentucky Derby are Lookin At Lee (20-1), Untrapped (30-1), Hence (15-1), maiden Sonneteer (50-1) and Royal Mo (20-1), who is on the also-eligible and will need a defection to make the body of the race. Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie named to ride) drew the rail, Untrapped (Ricardo Santana Jr.) post 4, Hence (Florent Geroux) post 8 and Sonneteer (Kent Desormeaux) post 12.

Lookin At Lee, Sonneteer and Untrapped finished third, fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Arkansas Derby. Hence broke his maiden Jan. 16 to give Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen his 500th career Oaklawn victory. Asmussen has won eight Oaklawn training titles since 2007.

Royal Mo finished ninth in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18, the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby. Sonneteer, Untrapped and Lookin At Lee also ran second, third and sixth, respectively, in the Rebel.

Classic Empire is trying to become the fourth Arkansas Derby winner to capture the Kentucky Derby, following Sunny’s Halo in 1983, Smarty Jones in 2004 and American Pharoah.

All Kentucky Derby starters will carry 126 pounds.

The race will be televised on NBC, with special coverage that begins at 1:30 p.m. Central.

Derby Day Undercard
Numerous Oaklawn-raced horses are entered on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

Uncontested, romping winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 at Oaklawn, drew post 4 for the $250,000 Pat Day Mile (G3). Unbeaten late Triple Crown nominee Rapid Dial (2 for 2 at Oaklawn) drew post 3 for his stakes debut. Probable post time for the Pat Day Mile, named for Oaklawn’s 12-time riding champion, is 1:45 p.m. (Central).

Apprehender, runner-up in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15 at Oaklawn, drew post 4 for the $500,000 Churchill Downs (G2) for older horses at 7 furlongs. Also entered are Oaklawn-raced The Truth Or Else and Chief of Staff. Probable post time for the Churchill Downs is 3:28 p.m. (Central).

Saturday’s third race, an allowance/optional claimer at a mile, will feature the 2017 debut of multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Far Right. He won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes and $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) in 2015. Far Right will be making his first start for trainer Wayne Catalano after previously being with Ron Moquett. Also entered are Idolo Porteno, third in the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) in 2016 at Oaklawn; Carve, winner of the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes in 2015 at Oaklawn; and Oaklawn winners Wabel and Rocket Time. Probable post time for the third race is 10:31 a.m. (Central).

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