Thursday, April 17, 2003

Empire Maker likely Derby favorite


Projected 6-5 odds lowest in 10 years

The Associated Press

Though Saturday's Lexington Stakes could produce a few more contenders, the field for the Kentucky Derby is all but set. Look for about 15 3-year-olds to challenge a heavily favored Empire Maker in the 1 1/4-mile Derby on May 3.

Empire Maker, off impressive wins in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, might end up as the shortest-priced Derby favorite since Arazi in 1992.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said earlier this week he'd make Empire Maker the 6-5 morning-line favorite, with Buddy Gil, Peace Rules and Ten Most Wanted the second choices at 8-1.

Arazi finished eighth as the 4-5 favorite in the '92 Derby.

Fusaichi Pegasus, the 2000 Derby winner, is the only race favorite to win since Spectacular Bid in 1979.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who saddles Scrimshaw in Saturday's Lexington, is down to his last Derby candidate. In 1999, his Charismatic won the Lexington and then took the Derby and Preakness. Last year he won with Proud Citizen, who then finished second to War Emblem in the Derby.

Ministers Wild Cat and Ocean Terrace also need strong efforts in the Lexington to earn Derby spots. Also set to run in the 1 1/16th-mile Lexington are Domestic Dispute, Most Feared and Trust N Luck.

Among those out of Derby consideration after poor performances last weekend are Aristocat, Indy Dancer and Lion Tamer - all trained by Todd Pletcher; the Lukas-trained Ten Cents a Shine; and Calumet Farms' Region of Merit.

Off the trail due to injury include Badge of Silver (fractured cannon bone), Eugene's Third Son (broken splint bone) and Man Among Men (leg cuts).

A closer look at the Associated Press' top prospects:

1. Empire Maker

(trainer: Bobby Frankel; jockey: Jerry Bailey) - Wood win more impressive than half-length margin ... Has been at Churchill Downs since Sunday ... Comes into Derby with three wins in five starts and earnings of $1,115,800. Derby future wager odds: 5-2.

2. Peace Rules

(Frankel; Edgar Prado) - Blue Grass win probably means Frankel will have top two Derby choices ... Two-for-two this year, with other win in Louisiana Derby. Odds: 12-1.

3. Buddy Gil

(Jeff Mullins; Gary Stevens) - Worked 4 furlongs in :46 4/5 at Santa Anita's training track ... Arrived Tuesday at Churchill Downs ... Comes into Derby with three-race win streak, including head win in Santa Anita Derby ... Last gelding to win Derby was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929. Odds: 13-1.

4. Kafwain

(Bob Baffert; Patrick Valenzuela) - Winner of four races in 11 starts, with last win in San Vicente on Feb. 1 ... Third in Santa Anita Derby in last start. Odds: 18-1.

5. Ten Most Wanted

(Wally Dollase; Pat Day) - Won Illinois Derby by 4 lengths in last start ... Worked 4 furlongs in :48.40 Wednesday at Keeneland. Odds: 17-1.

6. Indian Express

(Baffert; Tyler Baze) - Utah-bred colt arrived at Churchill Downs on Tuesday ... Runner-up in Santa Anita Derby in fourth career start ... Won two sprints in Panama as 2-year-old. Odds: 7-1 (mutuel field).




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