- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Current favorite Empire Maker aggravated a bruised hoof yesterday and may not enter Saturday's 129th running of the Kentucky Derby as the top choice.
Trainer Bobby Frankel dismissed the sore right front hoof as insignificant, saying the colt first injured it during his Wood Memorial victory on April12 at Aqueduct. However, many past Derby favorites have faltered after seemingly minor problems during Derby week. Empire Maker will remain the morning-line favorite when post positions are drawn today, but stablemate Peace Rules could emerge the favorite come post time with further setbacks by Empire Maker.
Veterinarian Ken Reed examined the colt after it jogged one mile at Churchill Downs following a final Derby workout on Sunday. Reed recommended Empire Maker simply walk today before returning to the track tomorrow.
"If this wasn't the Kentucky Derby and all the attention that goes with that, this would never be an issue," Frankel said. "They said the track was a little hard this morning and it might have affected him, but I really think he's going to be OK. You can never be 100 percent sure in this business, but I'm 98 percent sure he'll be all right."
Peace Rules may be Frankel's No.2 horse, but the Blue Grass Stakes winner isn't second-rate. If Empire Maker doesn't satisfy skeptics in coming days, Peace Rules could gain the burden of being the favorite. Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) is the only Derby choice to win since Spectacular Bid (1979).
"I really believe he's the second-best horse going into the race," Frankel said. "I've got a feeling he'll make the lead turning for home and it'll be tough running by him."
Fifteen entrants are expected after two were withdrawn and two added yesterday. Trainer Bob Baffert lost two of three runners in his bid for a second straight Derby and fourth overall when Kafwain suffered a ligament injury during a workout and Senor Swinger was downgraded to a turf race.
Kafwain was hurt while working with stablemate Indian Express. The two covered five-eighths mile in a reasonable 59 3/5 seconds on a hard racing surface that produced unusually quick times. Kafwain was among the top Derby contenders after his Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up last year.
Baffert is left with Indian Express in his quest to become the first trainer to win consecutive Derbies twice. The son of 1998 Derby favorite Indian Charlie was second in the Santa Anita Derby April5. The Utah-bred raced twice in Panama before being sent to Baffert in December after he was sold for $150,000. Indian Express could replicate War Emblem's wire-to-wire upset last year under Baffert.
"He only has one style, so we'll send him to the front and he'll go as far as he can," Baffert said.
Expected long shots Eye of the Tiger and Lone Star Sky were added to the field to prevent the smallest Derby since 1985. Eye of the Tiger hasn't won a stakes, but was second in the Lexington Stakes on April 19 after a roughly-run race. Lone Star Sky has lost six straight, but won a modest stakes at Churchill Downs on July7.
Meanwhile, late Maryland trainer Sonny Hine was named to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. Jockey Mike Smith, Precisionist and Dance Smartly were also honored by turf writers.
Hine led Skip Away to the 1998 Horse of the Year title. Hine won 897 races worth $28.5million over 24 years before dying in 2000. Smith has 4,169 victories worth $152.5million. The two-time Eclipse Award winner continues to ride. Precisionist was the 1985 sprint champion while Dance Smartly was the only filly to sweep the Canadian Triple Crown in 1991.

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