Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Peace Rules among early Derby favorites

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Even the Run for the Roses seems to be getting ready for war. Thoroughbreds with an odd coincidence of names won decisive victories in prep races for the 129th Kentucky Derby.

A horse named Peace Rules posted a surprise win in the Louisiana Derby on March 9. Meanwhile, Empire Maker shattered records in his Saturday win of the Florida Derby in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The horses are listed as No. 1 (Empire Maker) and No. 2 (Peace Rules) on the Thoroughbred Times' "Road to the Triple Crown" Web site.

Novice race fans and one-time bettors often pick horses for reasons other than on-track performance, said Turfway Park announcer Mike Battaglia.

"I'm sure that Peace Rules would get a lot of play because of its name," he said.

But Battaglia doubted bettors would make a war connection with Empire Maker. That horse is expected to be a Derby favorite mostly because of its bloodline and performance.

Empire Maker is a son of Unbridled, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby.

"I definitely think that people bet names, especially at Derby time. The hard-core bettors don't do this," said Battaglia, who also is a handicapper for Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Turfway.

As for himself, "I'm just looking at the horses at this point," Battaglia said.

Peace Rules may skip the May 3 Derby in favor of the Preakness, Battaglia said.

Empire Maker, owned by the Juddmonte Farm in Lexington, is at odds of 7-2 in Derby Future wagers.

Juddmonte Farm is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.

Peace Rules is owned by retired businessman Edmund Gann.

Bobby Frankel trains both horses.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com

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