Classic Empire, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of last year, refused to break off for an apparent workout Sunday at Palm Meadows, and as of Monday he has worked just once, on March 12, since his third-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4. His next intended start, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8, is now just 19 days away.
Calls placed by Daily Racing Form on Sunday and Monday to trainer Mark Casse and his son and assistant, Norman, had not been returned as of noon Eastern on Monday.
Classic Empire had an abscess in his right front foot coming out of the Holy Bull, which prevented him from running in the Fountain of Youth Stakes earlier this month at Gulfstream Park. He was intended to work for the first time since that setback on March 3, but refused, and later at the barn showed discomfort in his back, which was addressed with an equine therapist.
He did get in a work on March 12, a half-mile in 48.95 seconds, but that is the only breeze he has had since the Holy Bull.
Classic Empire, by Pioneerof the Nile, won four times in five starts last year, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and was a unanimous choice as champion of his division.
The Holy Bull is his lone start since the Breeders' Cup.
-- additional reporting by Mike Vesce