After a championship juvenile season, no one doubted that Classic Empire had genuine talent. The questions surrounding him centered on the physical issues that plagued him this spring, as well as the quirky colt's mental readiness. On the latter score, Classic Empire will still have to face the barely-controlled chaos that is Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, but the well-schooled colt who entered the starting gate for the Arkansas Derby (USA-I) was a far cry from the one who was refusing all efforts to get him to work a few weeks ago. After some initial restiveness in the starting gate, he stood quietly, broke beautifully, and handled being shuffled back a bit in the early going without turning a hair.
Physically, Classic Empire undoubtedly needed this race---a fact that should frighten his competitors, as this was definitely one of the better races of the prep season, with an honest pace and rivals up front who weren't dying on the lead. He should now be razor-sharp and ready to go at Churchill Downs, and there is no apparent reason why he should not be able to give a good account of himself as he attempts to defend his crown as the best of his generation.