Bloodlines Presented By Mill Ridge Farm: Angel Of Empire's Ascent, And Classic Empire's Unfinished Business - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Bloodlines Presented By Mill Ridge Farm: Angel Of Empire’s Ascent, And Classic Empire’s Unfinished Business

Angel of Empire following his win in the Arkansas Derby

When Classic Empire won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a neck from Not This Time (by Giant's Causeway) in 2016, it seemed that Kentucky Derby second Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker) was fashioning his own branch of the most classic line of Mr. Prospector.

The latter's son Fappiano sired Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who in his first crop sired leading stallion Unbridled's Song, as well as Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone (sire of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, sire of two classic winners himself). From later crops came Preakness winner Red Bullet, as well as Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.

Empire Maker proved the most successful of these three at stud, getting a pair of Kentucky Derby seconds, Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister, who have a signal distinction. Each has sired a Kentucky Derby winner himself. Bodemeister sired Always Dreaming, winner of the classic in 2017, and Pioneerof the Nile sired American Pharoah, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years with his victories in 2015.

So when Classic Empire came along to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the following year and was acclaimed champion of his age and sex, it appeared that the bay colt with the classic bloodlines had the premium events at his mercy. That is not how it worked out, however.

Classic Empire had a troubled preparation for the Triple Crown, then stepped up and won the G1 Arkansas Derby as his prep for the Kentucky classic, where he finished fourth in the 2017 Derby won by Always Dreaming. As rough as his Derby trip had been, Classic Empire had a lovely race in the Preakness two weeks later, sitting second most of the way behind Always Dreaming, then taking the lead after the three-quarters when the Derby winner “weakened,” as the chart phrases it.

Classic Empire had a three-length lead at the stretch call and appeared to be home free in the second classic, but the handsome colt tired somewhat and was caught near the sixteenth pole by Cloud Computing, who won by a head after a contentious battle. Classic Empire never ran again but entered stud in 2018 at Coolmore's Ashford Stud outside of Versailles, Ky.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Forgotten Land Investment Inc. and Black Diamond Equine Corp., Angel of Empire is from the second crop by Classic Empire and out of Armony's Angel, by Honor and Serve (Bernardini). Black Diamond had purchased the mare in foal to Classic Empire for $67,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November sale and took her to Pennsylvania to foal.

There she was under the management of Christian Black at Blackstone Farm, which is an operation that Black has with partners. The two entities that bred Angel of Empire are both Black himself.

“Armony's Angel is a good-sized mare,” Black said, “and this colt has always been a good mover. He was immature as a weanling, less so as a yearling. By the time that he sold with Warrendale at the September yearling sale, he had the movement and size, but he wouldn't have been one for the 2-year-old sales.”

A $32,000 RNA as a weanling, the colt came back in the 2021 September sale and sold for $70,000 to Albaugh Family Stable, which races him. Angel of Empire has won four of his six starts, earning slightly more than $1 million.

The mare has a 2-year-old by Collected and a yearling full brother to the Arkansas Derby winner. Black said that “Armony's Angel foaled the yearling in late May and was not bred back. She was bred to Gun Runner in February and is 45 days in foal.”

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Black said that “by myself, I breed 10 to 15 a year. All are raised on our Blackstone Farm property and are on the same program as the Blackstone Farm yearlings. But having a 7-year-old mare who's the dam of a G1 winner (and in foal to a very hot commercial sire) is the kind of thing we all dream of. You have to allow yourself to enjoy it.”

The owner is likely to consign the mare to the November sale, depending on how things develop in the next few months. Especially if a big, improving colt were to win or place in a classic.

“That would be the natural thing to consider,” Black said. And what would classic performance mean for the sire?

The racing successes of Classic Empire indicated that Pioneerof the Nile might found an important classic dynasty. Although the juvenile champion just missed getting there in his own racing career, perhaps Angel of Empire will find the talent to succeed and make Classic Empire a classic sire.

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