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ELMONT, NY – Classic Empire, who was expected to be favored in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, will miss the race because of an abscess in his right front hoof, trainer Mark Casse said Wednesday morning.
“We came in this morning and the foot that has given him issues before flared up,” said Casse of Classic Empire, who was beaten a head in the Preakness and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. “He was off on it; he couldn’t put it down.
“Right now, he’s standing in the hot tub,” he added. “We’re trying to get it to break open. As soon as that happens, he’ll have instant relief. We are not going into the Belmont off something like that.”
Classic Empire had a similar problem in February at Gulfstream Park immediately following the Grade 2 Holy Bull, in which he finished third as the 1-2 favorite.
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“It flared up after the Holy Bull,” said Casse. “Luckily, at this point, it flared up before the (Belmont). He’s such a tough horse, he doesn’t really let you know until it’s really painful to him. If he hadn’t, he would have run in the race and probably not run as well, and then have it flared up. I’m looking toward it as a bright spot, that he showed it three days out and not the day after.”
Classic Empire’s withdrawal from the 1 1/2-mile Belmont leaves the race with a field of 12, which drew post positions shortly after Casse’s announcement.
Irish War Cry, entering off of a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, drew the 7 post and was set as the 7-2 morning-line favorite. The field is as follows, listed by post position, horse, trainer, jockey, and morning-line odds:
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