Peace Rules, shown here during spring meet at Keeneland, among those preparing for August return to competition.

Peace Rules, shown here during spring meet at Keeneland, among those preparing for August return to competition.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Saratoga Notebook: Top 3-Year-Olds Work; Prado Opts for Peace Rules; Volponi Ready for Whitney; Alabama Target for Awesome Humor

By Mike Kane and Phil Janack
Empire Maker, Peace Rules and Sky Mesa all worked Saturday morning on the main track at Saratoga Race Course in preparation for their scheduled starts in stakes races on Aug. 3.

Trainer Bobby Frankel's Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker will stay in Saratoga Springs and prep for the Travers (gr.1) in the Jim Dandy (gr.II). Peace Rules, also trained by Frankel, and Sky Mesa are likely to meet in the Haskell Invitational (gr.I) at Monmouth Park. Trainer John Ward said Saturday that he is still leaning toward running Sky Mesa in the Haskell.

With stablemate Special Rate as a target, Empire Maker worked six furlongs in 1:12 under jockey Aaron Gryder. Special Rate and jockey Jerry Bailey broke off about five lengths in front, but Empire Maker made an inside move and was able to run them down by the time they reached the wire.

"I got three times," trainer Bobby Frankel. "The clockers gave him :12. Another guy gave him :11 3/5. And another clocker gave him :11 1/5.

Frankel said "everything is 100 percent" with Empire Maker and that he was happy with the work.

"I wanted him to go :12, or :12 and change," Frankel said. "He went a little faster than that. They hadn't breezed in 10 days, at least."

Perhaps more important to Frankel was that Empire Maker, son of the unpredictable mare Toussaud, behaved well during his time on the track.

"I think this work will make him a little more focused," Frankel said. "I count my blessings with him. He'll test you every day. You just hope that he makes it around there without propping, or something like that. His mother was 10 times worse than him. At least he'll jog the wrong way. His mother would jog 20 feet and stop, wait 15 seconds, jog 30 or 40 feet and stop."

Sky Mesa, handled by exercise rider Danny Ramsey, got five furlongs in :59.93, while Peace Rules and Javier Castellano covered five furlongs in 1:00.06.

Frankel said he was satisfied with Peace Rules' work for what will be his first start since finishing fourth in the Preakness on May 17.

"I tell you, he's going good, Peace Rules," Frankel said. "He's more relaxed up here than he was at Belmont. At Belmont, he'd tear up a :21 3/5 quarter. This is the way I like to see him work."

Sky Mesa had his work over the track where he broke his maiden and won the Hopeful (gr.I) during an unbeaten 2-year-old season in 2002.

"He galloped out in 13 and 26 and change. We're happy," Ward said. "We worked right before the break and it was already pretty well cut up and not as fast as it was early on. I thought it was a good work, considering.

"All you want to do is just maintain the level where you are, making sure they're hitting on all cylinders. You don't want to have any surprises. This morning was fine."

Prado Picks Peace Rules Over Sky Mesa

Jockey Edgar Prado will ride Peace Rules in the Haskell, Frankel said Saturday. Prado is the regular rider for Peace Rules and Sky Mesa and had to choose which horse he would ride.

"I hope he made the right choice," Frankel said. "I think he did."

As a result, Ward is in search of a replacement for Prado for Sky Mesa.

"We thought we had a backup call at this point, but we don't at this point, so we're looking," Ward said.

Volponi Rounds Off for Whitney

Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson wasn't concerned that there was some confusion over the four-furlong time turned by Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi (gr.I), who will run in the Whitney Handicap (gr.I).

With dozens of horses working after several days of rain, Johnson said he thought the work had been missed. However, Volponi's name did appear on the tab with a :47.85, one of the fastest times for the 78 at the distance.

"I never stopwatch horses, anyway. Time is very important if you're in jail. Other than that, it doesn't mean a thing," he said, using an old line. "I thought he worked wonderful. There was three horses 10 lengths in front and he caught them at the end. I was very pleased."

Awesome Humor Points for Alabama

Awesome Humor, who was 4-for-4 last year, including the Spinaway (gr.I), is being pointed toward the Alabama (gr.I) on Aug. 16 by trainer Elliott Walden.

The 3-year-old Distorted Humor filly was on the sidelines until May after having surgery to remove bone chips, and has won one of three starts this year. She was second as the even-money favorite in her last start, the Delaware Oaks (gr.III) July 19.

"She got a horrible start," Walden said. "She hit her head on the gate. There was no starting attendant in there with her. That whole scenario was very disappointing, but I was pleased the way she ran.

"She ran good. She came out of the race good. She's back on track, she likes Saratoga and she obviously likes the race track. We're looking forward to the Alabama."

Sprinter Heavyweight Champ Hangs Up Gloves

Sprinter Heavyweight Champ, winless in three starts this year, has been retired and sold by Dill C Stable, and will stand at stud in Chile, trainer John Terranova said.

Terranova said Heavyweight Champ was vanned last weekend from Saratoga to Miami, where he will stay in quarantine for two weeks before going abroad for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season, which begins in the fall.

According to Terranova, Heavyweight Champ suffered a torn suspensory ligament in training following his last start April 12, when he ran eighth of 11 in the Yankee Affair stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf.

Heavyweight Champ was 3-4-3 from 14 career starts, with $211,668 in earnings. His best year came at two, when he was third in the Sanford (gr.II), second in the Saratoga Special (gr.II), and third in the Champagne (gr.I).


Multiple stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro is scheduled to have his final work the Whitney on Sunday morning.

Value Plus, a $1.1 million yearling purchase at the 2002 Keeneland January sale by Aaron and Marie Jones, lived up to his name in his career debut in the third race Saturday. The enormous Unbridled's Song colt trained by Todd Pletcher, led from gate to wire to win the 61/2-furlong maiden race by more than eight lengths in 1:16.88.

"We thought he'd be ready a little sooner, but he missed a little time with a foot bruise," Pletcher said. "He's obviously big, but he's fast. He's trained like this all along. We've been looking forward to getting him started."

All wagers were refunded on Tennessee Burbin after he was declared a non-starter following an incident at the break of Saturday's first race. The 3-year-old Hennessy colt was still being held by an assistant starter as the gates opened, and reared as he came out sideways, well behind the field. According to NYRA officials, a total of $478,000 was refunded, $77,000 on-track, in win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and daily double wagers.

Also working for Frankel Saturday morning was Turf Classic (gr.I) and Manhattan (gr,IT) winner Denon, who breezed four furlongs over the Oklahoma turf course in a bullet :48.23. Denon has been wearing blinkers in training and Frankel said he may have them on in the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr.IT) on Aug. 9.