Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel said he, like his horses, came out of Saturday's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) in good shape.
Frankel trained the 2-3 finishers in Kentucky Derby 129, Juddmonte Farms' Empire Maker and Edmund Gann's Peace Rules. Frankel said he's doing OK after three weeks of intense media scrutiny as the trainer of the Kentucky Derby favorite.
"I've been more nervous going into other races than I was this race, to be honest with you," said a smiling Frankel. "I wasn't that bad - and I came out of it good, just like the horses. I came out sound."
Frankel said he is leaning toward sending Peace Rules to Pimlico for the Preakness, but would not rule out a bid for the second jewel of the Visa Triple Crown by Empire Maker. A run by the latter would depend on what the son of Unbridled does over the next few days.
"Peace Rules is a very, very tough horse," he said. "Empire Maker is a little immature still. He still hasn't developed. You can see his body - he's gangly, he's a little light. Peace Rules is a very, very strong horse."
Frankel said there is a tiny chance that Gann's Derby Trial (gr. III) winner Midas Eyes could try the Preakness, but said the 3-year-old son of Touch Gold was more probable for a run against older horses in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
A quick three-wide move on the far turn by jockey Jerry Bailey and Empire Maker had Frankel thinking that he was about to win his elusive first Kentucky Derby. But the trainer said those thoughts evaporated at about the three-sixteenths pole when it became clear that the Derby favorite was struggling and was not going to pass eventual winner Funny Cide.
"I thought he was going to win at that time (at the three-eighths pole), I really thought he was going to win," he said. "He might have been struggling with the track a little it, but you don't know. Hey, a lot of great horses got beat here and they went on to be super horses. I'm not down on him. That was only his sixth start. He's an immature horse and I never pressed him hard and, just hopefully, now he's had this race and he'll just keep on improving as the year goes along."
Frankel had expressed hopes before the Kentucky Derby that Empire Maker had qualities that would make him a threat to win not only the Derby, but to take the Visa Triple Crown for the first time in 25 years. With that hope dashed for Frankel this year, the trainer was asked if he thought he would ever see another Triple Crown winner.
"I hope so - I hope I live long enough," he said.
And what of Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide's Triple Crown chances?
"I'm trying not to let him do it," Frankel said.