- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Trainer Bobby Frankel said a sore hoof shouldn't bother favorite Empire Maker in Saturday's 129th Kentucky Derby.
"Sore feet don't bother horses that much in a race," Frankel said. "They get their adrenaline up and they start running and don't feel any pain. [Ive had] horses come out of the stall that could hardly walk, but when you put them on the racetrack and hit them in the [butt], they flew."
Frankel was remarkably upbeat yesterday after saying Tuesday night the colt might have to be withdrawn. Empire Maker probably won't return to the track until tomorrow for a final gallop after three days' rest. He also went one week without training before winning the Wood Memorial on April12 at Aqueduct when he first bruised the right front hoof. Empire Maker will receive his regular anti-inflammatories before the race.
"If this was a normal race nobody would have made a big deal about it," Frankel said. "It's no big deal. [However,] nothing's for sure. I can't guarantee anything. … [Winning] will just make him worth more money. They'll say 'Wow, what a super horse this is. With a bruised foot, he won.' It's like an athlete. I'm sure not all NFL players go into their games sound all the time. Things happen."
Empire Maker was named the 6-5 morning line favorite after drawing the No.12 post position in the field of 17. While bettors may prove more resistant to making him the second heaviest Derby choice in 24 years, he's still expected to remain the favorite. Ten Most Wanted is the second choice at 6-1.
Empire Maker aggravated the injury during Tuesday's workout. Frankel conceded the pressure to appear sharp during the morning sessions amid other Derby contenders is sometimes detrimental.
"Everybody wants to impress you in the morning," he said. "They want to get up on the podium and talk about how great their horses are training and if they go 1:05 [over five-eighths mile] the press says something's wrong with that horse. Trainers aren't thinking straight. Being here, it even gets to me. You get confused. You watch everybody work and think maybe I didn't do enough for my horse. Everybody else is going in 59 [seconds] and it gets to you. Everybody is watching everybody and you get caught up in it."
Empire Maker is the standout amid a lackluster field decimated by injuries. Kafwain was withdrawn on Tuesday after a training injury. Trainer Bob Baffert said the colt will miss four to six months with a strained tendon.
The son of 1990 Derby champion Unbridled, Empire Maker won the Florida Derby and Wood after adding blinkers to increase his focus. Frankel took Empire Maker to the paddock yesterday for the first of three straight days to get accustomed to Churchill Downs after earlier crowds seemed to bother him. More than 150,000 are expected for the Derby, where some colts are clearly unnerved by the biggest crowd of their career.
The post position draw may have a slight affect on the start with probable early speedsters Funny Cide (No.6) and Indian Express (No.9) expected to split the field quickly from the gate. A bad start by Indian Express will end any chance Baffert has of winning his second straight Derby and fourth in six years.
"If a bunch start a step slow, it's going to be bumper cars down there," Baffert said.
If Indian Express had drawn inside Funny Cide, he might have set an even faster early pace that would have given late-closers Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted more of a chance of catching Peace Rules, who figures to lay slightly off the early leaders until gaining the front on the final turn. A moderate pace will give Peace Rules more stamina to repel challengers in the final eighth mile.
Ten Most Wanted trainer Wally Dollase was pleased despite his No.16 post because it will let the colt settle down early and await a late run rather than be caught in an inside speed duel.
"Our plan is to rate him like he did in the Illinois Derby," Dollase said. "When he gets an outside post, he's rateable. It makes me feel confident of having a chance to win the race."



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