Likely favorite Classic Empire to miss Belmont with abscess

Classic Empire, Martin Rivera
FILE - In this May 2, 2017, file photo, Classic Empire, exercise rider Martin Rivera up, gallops at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Classic Empire is out of the Belmont Stakes because of an abscess in his right front foot. Trainer Mark Casse says the abscess found Wednesday, June 7, 2017, is a recurrence of the same problem that bothered the colt after his loss in the Holy Bull in February. Classic Empire was expected to be the favorite for Saturday's 1½-mile finale of the Triple Crown series. (AP Photo/Garry Jones, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The expected favorite for the Belmont Stakes is out of the race.

Classic Empire has an abscess in his right front hoof that will prevent him from running Saturday in the final leg of the Triple Crown series.

Trainer Mark Casse said the abscess was found Wednesday and is a recurrence of the same problem that bothered the colt after his loss in the Holy Bull in February.

“Right now, he’s standing in the hot tub,” Casse said. “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 was coming off a runner-up finish in the Preakness on May 20 after being fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

“He’s such a tough horse, he doesn’t really let you know until it’s really painful to him,” Casse said. “If he hadn’t, he would have run in the race and probably not run as well, and then have it flare up. I’m looking toward it as a bright spot, that he showed it three days out and not the day after.”

Casse said Classic Empire will be pointed toward the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth this summer.

Classic Empire’s withdrawal from the 1½-mile Belmont leaves the $1.5 million race with a field of 12. Post positions and odds will be set at the draw later Wednesday.

Classic Empire’s absence means Lookin At Lee will be the only horse to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.