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Empire Maker stakes claim as Derby factor

©Associated Press
March 16, 2003

HALLANDALE BEACH -- Bobby Frankel has his real Kentucky Derby horse now.

The Hall of Fame trainer boasted that Empire Maker was the best 3-year-old in his barn, and the bay colt delivered with a record romp Saturday in the Florida Derby.

With a powerful kick in the stretch, Empire Maker barreled past favored Trust N Luck and won the richest Derby prep race by 93/4 lengths, the largest margin of victory in the $1-million event's 52 years.

"He ran like we trained him," Frankel said. "I don't usually say this, but I envisioned this race the night before being run exactly the way it was."

Midway Cat went down on the far turn and was euthanized minutes after shattering his right front leg. Jockey Jorge Chavez was thrown to the ground and taken to Hollywood Regional Hospital, where a spokesman said X-rays showed Chavez had no fractures.

Though lightly raced, Empire Maker is likely to top most Kentucky Derby contender lists. Frankel planned to analyze Saturday's race before deciding whether Empire Maker would run next in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April12 or just train up to the Derby.

Empire Maker, the second favorite at 2-1, covered 11/8 miles in 1:49.05 to win for the second time in four starts for Juddmonte Farms, owned by Saudi prince Khalid Abdullah.

Trust N Luck, the even-money favorite off his Fountain of Youth Stakes win Feb.15, was second by a half length over Indy Dancer.

Empire Maker, a son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, paid $6.20, $2.80 and $2.40. Trust N Luck paid $2.40 and $2.10; Indy Dancer returned $3.20.

ELSEWHERE: Champion Lodge beat Special Matter by six lengths on rain-soaked turf in the $250,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita. ... Affirmed Success beat Peeping Tom by a length in the $109,100 Toboggan Handicap at Aqueduct.

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