The bloodlines and storylines extend all the way from a farm in Schuylkill County to horse racing’s most storied event. When the bugle call signals the start of this year’s Kentucky Derby, a Pennsylvania horse, Angel of Empire, will be right in the middle of it.
The horse, which was born and bred on Pine Grove’s Blackstone Farm between Harrisburg and Allentown, figures to be one of the frontrunners in next Saturday’s race. The first Kentucky Derby odds are released early next week when the official post positions are set.
Angel of Empire currently ranks third on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 154 points. He’s behind only Forte and Practical Move.
The three-year-old horse won the Arkansas Derby earlier this month and has already recorded more than $1 million in earnings with four first-place finishes.
Angel of Empire won the Arkansas Derby from the sixth position
In the Arkansas Derby, which serves as a good tune-up for the race in Kentucky, Angel of Empire started in post position No. 6 and advanced from it soon afterward near the 3/4 mile mark, making an outside-in move to capture the race.
“It’s just really gratifying when you can win a Grade 1 (race), especially the Arkansas Derby,” Jason Loutsch, co-owner of Angel of Empire and Albaugh Family Stables, said in a Past the Wire article after the race. “This is a race we’ve been pointing at a long time and to win it is really special…After seeing that race, I’ve got a lot of confidence. This is a horse I’ve been saying day 1 wants to get the distance. He showed that twice at a mile and an eighth. He just keeps running. I thought he ran a great race today, and I’m excited for the first Saturday in May (at the Kentucky Derby).”
The horse was about the fourth favorite (9-2) heading into the Arkansas Derby and paid out $11.40, $5.80 and $4.40 (Win-Place-Show) with that victory. The win creates some optimism for the horse’s Triple Crown races that begin with the Kentucky Derby.
And his bloodlines don’t hurt, either.
Angel of Empire’s father finished fourth in the 2017 Kentucky Derby
Angel of Empire’s father, Classic Empire, had an impressive resume that included career earnings of more than $2.5 million. In 2017, the horse raced to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a second in the Preakness Stakes. Classic Empire also won the Arkansas Derby before falling short at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs, which gives the son a chance to earn some redemption.
And going even further back, Classic Empire shared the same sire with American Pharoah, a horse that captured the 2015 Triple Crown.
Could Angel of Empire approach the same greatness? Step one starts with the Kentucky Derby next weekend.
PA horse’s jockey and trainer both bring Triple Crown experience
The genetics and bloodlines bode well for Angel of Empire in the Derby and perhaps even further beyond. Especially considering that the Pennsylvania horse has a few other things working in his favor, too.
Angel of Empire will have an accomplished jockey on board for the Kentucky Derby. Flavien Prat won the Breeders’ Cup in 2022 (Flightline), the Pennsylvania Derby in 2021 (Hot Rod Charlie) and the 2019 Kentucky Derby (Country House). Last year, Prat led Zandon to a third-place finish at Churchill Downs.
In addition to the jockey pairing, Angel of Empire should also benefit from an experienced trainer. Brad H. Cox also has some big wins in his background, with victories in the Kentucky Derby (Mandaloun, 2021) and the Belmont Stakes (Essential Quality, 2021).
Cox will get another shot at the Derby next Saturday – and he has plenty of confidence in his horse.
“He’s a cool, calm horse,” Cox told Past the Wire after the Arkansas Derby. “If there is anybody who can handle 150,000 people (at Churchill Downs) it would be this horse.”
Kentucky Derby festivities begin Monday with the post position draw
The post position draw for Angel of Empire and the rest of the Kentucky Derby field will be held on Monday, May 1. Twenty horses are expected to enter the race and the results of the draw could influence the odds.
Pennsylvania horse racing fans have numerous betting options available for the Kentucky Derby – horse racing’s most prestigious event.
Post time for the Kentucky Derby is set for 6:57 p.m. on Saturday, May 6.