The 15th Running of the Empire Classic
October 30, 2021 15:00
BEL Race #9 $300.000 11/8 Dirt
NY-Breds 3YOs 121 Lbs 4yo+ 124 Lbs
Track Record-1:46.02 (Jimmies Fourpeat-2012)
Stakes Record-1:47.74 (War Scent-2014)
As the signature event in Saturday’s NY-bred stakes program at BEL, the $300.000 Empire Classic has drawn a field of ten to contest the 11/8 dirt contest. Having A Blast and Bodemister probably assumed they would be getting some class relief in this; however, this looks like a very competitive field that is worthy of being the feature on this day of celebration for NY breeders. Mb Stables (2014, 2016, 2018) has enjoyed more success in this race than any other HRP trainer and the now-retired R.A. Dominguez (2004, 2011) is still the only jockey with two of these trophies on his mantle. Here is the field of ten for Saturday’s renewal of the Empire Classic at BEL:
#1 Roodey (Maxmillion Farm/D. Davis 124): Rail-horse is making his first dirt start since April of 2020 and finds a tough group. Has two wins at this distance on the lawn, won his last two starts, and is working nicely coming into this, but lack of dirt form makes him a bit of a mystery. Others look more proven on this surface and at this level.
#2 Psychotic Ruler (Night Rider Stables/E. Cancel 124): Six year-old will be making only the fourth start of his 2021 season and the second off of a five month sabbatical. No doubting he’ll get the trip and, if he can replicate the TAM time from February, he should have every chance here. Different dynamics at play for this assignment, but think he’ll be running late.
#3 Afterburner (Arindel/Mar. Garcia 121): Barn’s first entrant is also the first 3yo in the field. Spent the spring in KYD preps before running 18th in the Run for the Roses. Been on turf since, but hasn’t had much luck and comes back to the dirt for this. Last four dirt efforts yielded pretty poor results, but may enjoy the drop to state-bred company. Going to watch this one before reccommending.
#4 Between The Hedges (Mb Stables/S.X. Bridgmohan 121): Another 3yo and another that will run with a stablemate here. Won the NY Derby before running 3rd in the Albany at this same level. Think he’ll be on or very near the lead early, but he will need a career-best effort as he faces elders today. Should be in the picture for a long while, but would be a bit of a surprise if he bested this bunch.
#5 Having A Blast (Mb Stables/E. Jaramillo 124): 6yo G1 winner breaks outside of his younger stablemate and looks to be the class of this field. This guy sits 15th on the biggest of big boards, so the quality is obvious. Hasn’t won since March, but this is the softest group he’s seen since before the engine change. If he’s right, think he is the obvious choice.
#6 Bodemister (D J C Racing Stables/J.R. Velazquez 124): Did a lot of sprinting before the 07/22 trip to the vet and has returned to the races twice in 12-furlong affairs since. Grabbed a win and a second in non-graded stakes events going the marathon distance and should be dangerous dropping back to restricted foes. Last two have seen him rally from off the pace so expect him to be passing horses through the lane here. Contender.
#7 Soho Jackman (Night Mare Racing/J. Rosario 124): Colt has made some good money even though he doesn’t like to win very often as he’s only had one visit to the WC. 4yo looks to have some early foot and has handled longer distances well, but the single win is hard to overlook. Think he is good enough to return a profit here, but he will need to really battle to challenge for the top prize.
#8 Boardwalk (Nakamura Stables/V.R. Carrasco 124): Our first horse in the field entering this off of a dirt win and he has in fact won two in a row. Has to carry a bit more weight in here than he did in those handicap events, but there’s nothing wrong with his form. Another that looks to be involved from the get go and he may loom as the largest threat to the likely favorite.
#9 Feathers Not Dots (Night Rider Stables/L. Saez 124): Another entry making his first dirt start in over a year, but he has been competing with some quality animals on the grass. Last race on dirt saw him lose in a $14 conditioned claimer so he will need to show some major improvement to factor here. That being said, this is still (on paper) an easier field than what he has been facing.
#10 Oleg (Arindel/A.A. Gallardo 121): Second 3yo from this barn spent time on the KYD prep trail. This one missed the G1 KYD, but did run 14th in the G1 PRK. G3 win in July was nice, but has run three duds since all in graded company. Gets three pounds from the elders and should relish the class relief, but gets no favors from this draw. Think he may best the other sophomores in here, but he’ll need to run really big to topple the whole group.
Final Analysis: 8-5-6 Going with the hot hand for top honors, but will box all three horses. Good luck to all in the $300.000 Empire Classic at BEL!