Saturday, May 3, 2003

Derby packed with drama

Will favored Empire Maker recover for win?

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - After an eventful week, Empire Maker seemingly has indicated he'll either beat the field in today's Kentucky Derby or beat himself.


Derby briefing book: Who's setting the pace & who's falling back

Media Poll: The C-J's panel of experts weigh in on their favorites

Latest news: Reports from morning workouts and analysis of the race

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The favorite has starred in weeklong cliffhangers concerning his foot and his focus. His contribution Friday: a sudden bolt to the outside rail during his gallop, leaving observers to wonder if he had either been jarred by a misstep on his bruised hoof or was living up to his flighty reputation.

"He's making a soap opera of it," said his trainer, Bobby Frankel. "The drama rises!"

When Empire Maker rounded a turn during his gallop, he suddenly hung a hard, nearly sideways right, causing exercise rider Jose Cuevas to pull tight on the reins as they slid all the way across the track to the outside rail.

"It is documented; everything out of that mare (Toussaud) pulls stunts," Frankel said. "She pulled stunts and so do all her kids. But it's not a big deal."

Frankel said the scene, coupled with the bruise, will have an effect on Derby wagering. "We will probably be 3-1 now," Frankel said of the 6-5 morning-line favorite. But he said the foot injury isn't causing his horse pain.

"Bet against him at your own risk," he said. "He's going to run a big race."

In other news Friday, 15-1 shot Sir Cherokee was scratched because of a small ankle fracture, reducing the field to 16 horses.

Ten Most Wanted (6-1) and Peace Rules (8-1) are the next choices in the morning line. Post time is 6:04 p.m.

Getting there

Directions to Churchill Downs: From I-71 South to Louisville, take I-65 South to Exit 132 (Crittenden Drive). Turn right on Central Avenue. Track is on left.

Tickets: $40 general-admission tickets will be sold today.



Schmidt's picks

This is the eighth year Enquirer reporter Neil Schmidt has covered the Kentucky Derby. Here are his picks for this year's race:


Ten Most Wanted


Empire Maker


Indian Express

Our guide to The Kentucky Derby (PDF; 960k)
Churchill Downs map/directions (PDF; 230k)
The Kentucky Derby field (PDF; 120k)

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