Juddmonte Farm's Empire Maker, the strong favorite for the 129th running of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), arrived at Churchill Downs Sunday afternoon to continue his preparations for the May 3 race. The homebred son of Unbridled, winner of Saturday's Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct and also the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park, stepped off a Brook Ledge horse van and onto the grounds of the historic Louisville, Ky. track at 2:50 p.m. (EDT). Assistant Ruben Loza, who flew from New York with the colt, led the Bobby Frankel-trained Empire Maker to his stall in Barn 43.Loza said Empire Maker handled the journey well. "He's a little anxious sometimes," said Loza. "But he was perfect today." Frankel's other major Kentucky Derby contender, Edmund Gann's Peace Rules, is scheduled to join Empire Maker at Churchill Downs on Monday. The winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland will travel by van from the Lexington track. Empire Maker was accompanied on the flight from New York by Frankel-trained stablemates Aldebaran, runner-up in the Carter Handicap (gr. I), Thunder Blitz, the fourth-place finisher in the 2001 Kentucky Derby; and 3-year-old Special Rate. The same flight from New York carried Stonerside Stable's Carter Handicap (gr. I) winner Congaree and Robert and Beverly Lewis' Senor Swinger, the fifth-place finisher in the Wood Memorial, to Churchill Downs for trainer Bob Baffert. Earlier in the day, a plane from Arkansas brought Serengeti Stable's Arkansas Derby (gr. II) runner-up Eugene's Third Son back to trainer Patrick Byrne's Churchill barn. Byrne said the son of Indian Charlie came out of the race well and would likely be pointed toward the Preakness (gr. I), although he will keep the Kentucky Derby open as an option.
"We'll probably shoot straight for the Preakness, but we want to keep the possibility of running in the Derby open in case that race falls apart over the next three weeks," said Byrne. "We're stabled here, so we'll wait and see." Also arriving at Churchill Downs on Sunday was Azalea Stable and Lansdon Robbins III's Offlee Wild, who finished third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Offlee Wild shipped by van from Lexington to the Churchill Downs barn of trainer T.V. Smith. Sir Cherokee, the upset winner of the Arkansas Derby, is scheduled to arrive at trainer Mike Tomlinson's barn at Trackside Louisville on Monday. The Domino Stud homebred is traveling by van from Oaklawn Park. Trainer Ron Ellis said B. Wayne Hughes and Biscuit Stable's San Felipe (gr. II) runner-up Atswhatimtalknbout has done well since his arrival in Kentucky Wednesday evening and has picked up weight in his short time at Churchill Downs. He said the son of A.P. Indy is scheduled to work on Wednesday and will be outfitted with blinkers for the first time in that training move. The flight from Arkansas also carried a Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) hopeful to Churchill Downs. Go for Glamour finished third to Ruby's Reception in Friday's Fantasy (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park and could compete in the Oaks for trainer Beau Greely.