Juddmonte Farms' Empire Maker, one of the most hyped 2-year-old runners last year is scheduled to make his 2003 debut Friday in the $75,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. The 1 1/8-mile race, while is restricted to 3-year-olds that have not won $50,000 at a mile or over, has drawn a diverse crowd.
Empire Maker, trained by Bobby Frankel, was installed the even-money morning line favorite against six rivals as he begins his assault toward the Triple Crown.
By Unbridled, Empire Maker is out of Toussaud (by El Gran Senor), one of several blue hen mares from Juddmonte's quality broodmare band in Kentucky. Toussaud, a grade I winner on turf, has produced three grade I winners from her first six foals: Chester House, Honest Lady, and Chiselling. Decarchy, another of Toussaud's foals, is a grade II winner. Empire Maker is her sixth foal.
The buzz was there from the beginning for Empire Maker, breaking his maiden last October at Belmont at 3-5. Off that 3 1/2-length maiden win, Empire Maker was the 7-5 favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes (gr. II) on Nov. 30 and ran a solid third behind the multiple grade I-winning Toccet and Bham. Better things are expected from Empire Maker this season. He tuned up for his seasonal debut with a pair of bullet works: a six-furlong move in 1:12 4/5 on Jan. 25 and a 1:12 3/5 drill on Jan. 31. Jerry Bailey will be on hand to ride Empire Maker, who currently ranks third on Steve Haskin's Derby Dozen.
R.D. Hubbard and Connie Sczesny's Man Among Men enters the Sham Stakes with the highest last-race Beyer Speed Figure in the field. The son of Gentlemen earned a 94 rating when fourth in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood on Nov. 30. In his prior race, also on turf, Man Among Men won the restricted Pinjara Stakes at Santa Anita at a mile. Trainer Gary Mandella preped his runner with a 1:00 4/5 drill over the main track on Feb. 1.
Another horse that will draw attention is Ten Most Wanted, an eight-length maiden winner last time out for trainer Wally Dollase. Owned by Chisholm, Horizon Stable, and Mike Jarvis, the son of Deputy Commander was a $145,000 Fasig-Tipton February sale 2-year-old.
Karl Watson and Paul Weitman's Spensive sneaks into the conditioned race, having earned $47,325 in winning the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate on Dec. 14. In his last start, Spensive finished fourth in the Golden Gate Derby (gr. II) on Jan. 11. He has been set up for the Sham Stakes with a :59 1/5 work over Santa Anita's main track on Feb. 2. The Florida-bred son of Ponche is one of two Bob Baffert-trained sophomores in the race. The other is Truckle Feature.
Truckle Feature, a $500,000 OBS sale 2-year-old last February makes his 2003 debut under Victor Espinoza. The James McInvale-owned son of Saint Ballado has not been out since winning an optional claiming event at Hollywood on Dec. 19 at 1 1/16 miles.
Sham Stakes, $75,000, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds, non-winners of $50,000 at a mile or over
PP, Horse, Jockey, ML
1, Truckle Feature, Victor Espinoza, 6-1
2, Ten Most Wanted, Kent Desormeaux, 7-2
3, Man Among Men, Alex Solis, 10-1
4, Storm Gulch, Laffit Pincay Jr., 10-1
5, Empire Maker, Jerry Bailey, Even
6, Pine For Java, Pat Valenzuela, 12-1
7, Spensive, Julie Krone, 8-1