Angel of Empire – Kentucky Derby Context

May 6th, 2023

An off-the-pace runner, Angel of Empire displayed a terrific turn of foot in the Arkansas Derby (G1), surging from sixth to reach the lead by the top of the stretch, and the up-and-coming colt established himself as a serious Kentucky Derby contender while notching his first triple-digit Brisnet Speed rating (101). After a non-threatening second in his stakes debut, the Smarty Jones on New Year’s Day, Angel of Empire progressed with a hard-fought win in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds in mid-February. The bay sophomore may have to negotiate traffic in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, but Angel of Empire appears to be peaking at the right time of the year and his late punch can’t be dismissed.

Top Brisnet Speed: 101

Top Brisnet Late Pace: 108

Owner: Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Albaugh Family Stables is operated by Dennis Albaugh and his son-in-law Jason Loutsch. Angel of Empire will be their fourth Kentucky Derby starter, the first in five years, and Brody’s Cause's seventh in 2016 is the best result. Albaugh Racing Stables may have three in the 20-horse field, co-owning Jace’s Road and Cyclone Mischief. The latter must draw in from the also-eligible list.

Trainer: Brad Cox, who was born and raised near Churchill Downs, finished first and third with his first two Kentucky Derby starters, Mandaloun and Essential Quality, who were elevated one spot via disqualification in 2021. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer brings a 5-1-0-1 record into his third Kentucky Derby appearance, and Angel of Empire is one of four Cox runners in the main body of the 20-horse field, along with Hit Show, Jace's Road, and Verifying.

Jockey: Flavien Prat owns a stellar 1-1-2 record from five Kentucky Derby starts, including a win via disqualification aboard 65-1 Country House (2019) and a third on 40-1 Battle of Midway (2017). The French-born jockey chose Angel of Empire over Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Kingsbarns.

Breeder/Sales: Purchased for $70,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale, Angel of Empire was bred in Pennsylvania by Christian Black’s Forgotten Land Investment and Black Diamond Equine. A pair of Pennsylvania-breds have won the Kentucky Derby, Smarty Jones (2004) and Lil E. Tee (1992).

Sire: After being named champion two-year-old male, Classic Empire finished fourth in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and concluded his racing career a head second in the Preakness two weeks later. He’s by Pioneerof the Nile, runner-up in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and Angel of Empire is from Classic Empire’s second crop. Classic Empire stands at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.

Dam: Angel of Empire is the first foal to race from Armony’s Angel. His dam is by To Honor and Serve, a young broodmare sire, and Angel of Empire counts Carson City, the broodmare sire of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, as the broodmare sire of the second maternal dam.