Florida Derby winner Empire Maker draws outside post for Wood.

Florida Derby winner Empire Maker draws outside post for Wood.

Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

Empire Maker Draws Outside in Wood

Early Kentucky Derby (gr. I) favorite Empire Maker will mark his return to the Empire State Saturday in the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct. He will break from the outside in a field of eight entered for the 1 1/8 mile Derby prep.

Juddmonte Farms homebred Empire Maker exits a powerful 9 3/4-length victory in the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 15 while making his first start with blinkers. As a 2-year-old, Empire Maker was a debut winner at Belmont Park and finished third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct.

Despite the strong performance in the Florida Derby, trainer Bobby Frankel, who will also have morning-line favorite Peace Rules in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland later in the day, is not anticipating a big drop-off in Empire Maker's performance.

"I don't think he ran nearly as fast as he can in the Florida Derby," Frankel claimed. "He ran a good number, not a great number, and I don't think that put him over the top. I'm expecting him to take a little step back, but I think he'll probably run about the same race he did in Florida."

Also returning to New York is Paraneck Stable's New York Hero, who won the Lane's End Stakes (gr. I) at Turfway Park in his first venture outside the state. The son of Partner's Hero has won three of five starts, including maiden and allowance events at Aqueduct earlier this year.

New York Hero is named in honor of the heroes of the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist strike on New York City.

"It's very special for him to represent New York, especially during a time of war," trainer Jen Pedersen said. "Everyone's very excited."

Also entered is Senor Swinger, the latest addition to the Bob Baffert barn. The son of El Prado was purchased privately on behalf of Bob and Beverly Lewis after a fifth-place finish in the Florida Derby. Prior to that he dead-heated with Ten Cents a Shine in a Gulfstream Park allowance.

Last year, Baffert won the Kentucky Derby with War Emblem, who was purchased privately by The Thoroughbred Corp. after winning the Illinois Derby.

"This is a totally different situation from last year," Baffert
said. "Last year, War Emblem was on an upswing and this horse has been on a downswing. Hopefully, he'll run much better than he did in his last race. We'll get a good chance to see where he's at Saturday."

The field for the $750,000 Wood Memorial in post position order:
1 New York Hero, Jen Pedersen, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 123
2 Spite The Devil, H. Allen Jerkens, Mike Luzzi, 123
3 Kissin Saint, Lisa Lewis, Richard Migliore, 123
4 Funny Cide, Barclay Tagg, Jose Santos, 123
5 Senor Swinger, Bob Baffert,l Gary Stevens, 123
6 Indy Dancer, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 123
7 Sky Soldier, Todd Beattie, Rodrigo Madrigal Jr., 123
8 Empire Maker, Bobby Frankel, Jerry Bailey, 123