Kentucky Derby favorite Empire Maker.

Kentucky Derby favorite Empire Maker.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Thursday Derby Report: Favorite is '100%': 'Ats' Schools in Gate; Sarava Has to Wait

By Ron Mitchell, Lenny Shulman
and Steve Haskin

Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Empire Maker was back on the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning and jogged to the satisfaction of trainer Bobby Frankel.

The Unbridled colt, installed Wednesday as the 6-5 favorite for Saturday's Derby, is being treated for a bruised right front foot. On Wednesday, the Juddmonte Farm homebred walked the shedrow and did not go to the track.

Frankel said the bruise did not seem to bother Empire Maker's jog Thursday. "He is never going to jog any better than he did today," Frankel said. "I decided to go ahead and jog him to get it over with. That's him. He's fine. "

The trainer said Dr. Ken Reed, the veterinarian treating the bruise, examined Empire Maker early Thursday. "Dr. Reed said he's great," Frankel reported.

"Empire Maker is 100%," Frankel told the media throng that assembled for the trainer's morning press briefing after training hours have been completed. "This kind of bruise happens all the time. It is nothing serious. It has been blown out of proportion. If he does not run well Saturday, it (bruise) is absolutely no excuse. I've trained horses for 40 years and I know what's going on. After you see him gallop tomorrow (Friday) there won't be any reporters here."

Frankel said Churchill has a hard race track, but that his horses are accustomed to these types of tracks at his California base and are doing well at Churchill.

Following Thursday morning's exercise regimen, Frankel called Dr. John Chandler, president of Juddmonte's American operations, and reported on the colt's condition. Frankel said Chandler told him that Juddmonte Farms owner Khalid Abdullah was en route from Saudi Arabia to attend the Derby.

As the 6-5 morning-line favorite, Empire Maker is the shortest odds horse before actual betting begins since Arazi, the 6-5 morning-line who finished eighth at 9-10 odds in the 1992 Derby.

Meanwhile, B. Wayne Hughes' and Biscuit Stable's Atswhatimtalknbout sustained a minor abrasion on his left hind flank when he was schooled in the gate with other horses. Trainer Ron Ellis said the abrasion, about four inches in length, will not effect the son of A. P. Indy's ability to run in the Derby. The colt also galloped about 1 3/8 miles in blinkers, a regimen that Ellis plans to repeat Friday.

In a development involving a classic winner from 2002, Belmont Stakes winner Sarava did not draw into the 12-horse field for Thursday's sixth race at Churchill Downs. The conditioned allowance/optional claiming race at 1 mile would have been the first start for the Wild Again colt since his Belmont victory on June 8 of last year. Trainer Bob Baffert, who has assumed the training of Sarava from Ken McPeek, was non-committal on plans for Sarava, who also has a slightly bruised heel.