More Sports:

May 05, 2023

Angel of Empire, racehorse bred in Pennsylvania, is tied for the best odds to win Kentucky Derby

The thoroughbred was born at Blackstone Farm in Schuylkill County. He's been given an 6-1 shot to win the classic race at Churchill Downs

A horse bred on a farm in central Pennsylvania is tied with just one other steed for the best odds to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby, the 149th "Run For the Roses" that serves as the first leg of the Triple Crown series.

The three-year-old horse, Angel of Empire, was born at Blackstone Farm in Pine Grove, Schuylkill County. His sire, Classic Empire, finished fourth in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Angel of Empire enters the weekend with 6-1 odds to take the race at Louisville's Churchill Downs, as of Friday afternoon. The race will begin at 6:57 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC, with coverage beginning at noon Saturday. 

Angel of Empire spent his first 17 months at Blackstone Farm with Christian Black and Doug Black, who are not related but work together to run the thoroughbred nursery. In September 2021, at the annual Keaneland Yearling Sale in Lexington, Angel of Empire was sold at auction for $70,000 to the Iowa-based Albaugh Family Stables, WGAL reported.

"He had personality, but he was just never any trouble," Christian Black said of Angel of Empire's time in Pennsylvania. "He never really got sick."

Doug Black described Blackstone Farm as a "peaceful place" where thoroughbreds can mature before they are broken, trained and prepared for the rigors of racing.

Angel of Empire qualified for the Kentucky Derby based on a strong run over the last few months. On New Years Day, he came in second at Arkansas' Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. In February, he won the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. And he won the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 1.

At the Kentucky Derby, Angel of Empire will be the only horse from Pennsylvania in the competition. Seventeen of the original 20 selected were bred in Kentucky, and two were born in Japan.

Angel of Empire's jockey at the Kentucky Derby will be Flavian Prat, who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby with horse Country House and the 2021 Preakness with Rombauer. Angel of Empire's trainer is Brad Cox.

Only two other horses from Pennsylvania have ever won the Kentucky Derby. In 1992, longshot Lil E. Tee won the race and then placed fifth in the Preakness Stakes. He did not race in the Belmont Stakes. Smarty Jones, the famed thoroughbred from Chester County's Fairthorne Farm, won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before placing second at the Belmont Stakes, coming up just short of the Triple Crown.

Thirteen horses have won the Triple Crown, including most recently Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015. The last to do it before them were Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.

In this year's Kentucky Derby, four horses — Practical Move, Lord Miles, Continuar and Skinner — had been scratched from the race as of Friday afternoon. Cyclone Mischief, Mandarin Hero and King Russell were added to replace them, bringing the total to 19. As of Friday morning, any other horses scratched will reduce the total number competing in the race.

Angel of Empire's 6-1 odds are matched only by Tapit Trice, tying the two horses for the current best odds of winning. Angel of Empire will start from the 14th position.

The Kentucky Derby has a $3 million purse, with the winning owner getting $1.86 million and the jockey taking $186,000. Owners of the top five finishers and their jockeys each receive cash prizes.