08/28/2003 11:00PM

Bullet five furlongs for Empire Maker


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - One week after being declared from the Travers Stakes, Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker was back on the work tab Friday, drilling five furlongs in 1:00.02 over a fast Saratoga main track. The workout, with Rudy Rodriguez aboard, was the fastest of 14 at the distance.

Empire Maker, who worked by himself, was timed in fractions of 23.60 seconds and 35.20. He is being pointed to the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.

Empire Maker was scratched out of the Travers after not eating up and developing a cough and a temperature a few days before the race. He missed three or four days of training, according to trainer Bobby Frankel.

Empire Maker went back to the track last Sunday, jogging for two days before galloping beginning on Tuesday.

"He was ready to work, and I wanted to get on a schedule with him," Frankel said. "He seems fine."

Frankel said running Empire Maker in the Travers could have been detrimental to the colt's future.

"Who knows how he would have run and how he would have come out of it," Frankel said.

Frankel said he hopes to work Empire Maker every six days leading up to the Gold Cup, where he is expected to face Mineshaft.

Medaglia d'Oro has minor foot ailment

Medaglia d'Oro, who finished second to Candy Ride in the Pacific Classic, popped a pus pocket in a foot above the coronet band. Because Medaglia d'Oro is not expected to run before the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25, Frankel said it's not a big deal.

"He'll be all right," Frankel said. "It's nothing major. It popped out where he grabbed his foot."

Frankel was referring to a prior injury suffered by Medaglia d'Oro in April, when he became cast in his Hollywood Park stall a few days after he won the Oaklawn Park Handicap. Frankel could not recall which foot was injured.

Frankel said he was not using the minor injury as an excuse for Medaglia d'Oro's loss in the Pacific Classic.

"The thing that bugged him the most was running back too quick and running into that horse," he said, referring to Candy Ride.

Frankel said Medaglia d'Oro, who remained in California after the Pacific Classic, would not return to the track until the affected area dries up.

"Those are the type of things, if you try to run them back to the track it never heals," Frankel said. "You might irritate it with the sand and stuff. I just hope it doesn't go too far under the foot. You think they're okay, and the next thing you know you've got a quarter crack."

Frankel confirmed on Friday that Denon, fourth in the Sword Dancer Invitational, would make his next start in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Man o' War Stakes.

Mott has another strong meet

Overshadowed by the runaway train known as Todd Pletcher, trainer Bill Mott had yet another successful season at Saratoga. Through Friday's 33rd day of the meet, Mott had 14 winners from 72 starters and had bagged a pair of stakes races.

"We've won training titles with as many wins as we've got," said Mott, who won eight trainers' titles here from 1992-2001. "It pales when compared to some of the things [Pletcher] has done at this meet. If we could have won the Fourstardave or the Bernard Baruch, that would have made it better."

Through Friday, Mott trailed Pletcher by 20 winners. Pletcher's 34 wins are a record for any Saratoga meet. However, Mott was five ahead of Nick Zito.

The highlights of the meet for Mott were Stroll's victory in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes on Aug. 4 and the win by Stylish in the Grade 3 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup on Aug. 24. The latter was one of three victories Mott had on Travers Day.

Mott has Stroll nominated to Monday's Grade 3 Saranac Handicap, but Mott said he wants to wait for the Grade 2, $200,000 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont on Sept. 21.

"If you run in the Saranac, you run on a turf course that's pretty chewed up," Mott said. "If you run in the Saranac, you probably don't run back in the Jamaica, and the Jamaica is worth twice the money. Plus, I just preferred to give him a little more time."

Mott said he did not have a race picked out for Stylish, but the only logical race at Belmont for her would be the Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel Stakes at one mile on Sept. 20.

Mott said he is considering running Thompson Rouge in next Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. Thompson Rouge, an Irish-bred son of Machiavellian, had made his first nine career starts on turf. Mott put him on the dirt for an Aug. 9 allowance race, which he won by a neck, but he was disqualified for interference.

Though Mineshaft figures to be a heavy favorite in the Woodward, Mott was not scared by the list of other horses being considered for the race. Those include Hold That Tiger, Jersey Giant, Northern Rock, and Puzzlement.

"For some reason, I feel like I'd have a chance to get a big check," Mott said.

Peeping Tom back in training

Peeping Tom, the Grade 1-winning gelding, has rejoined trainer Pat Reynolds's Saratoga stable and has resumed training toward a fall campaign. Peeping Tom has been on vacation at a nearby farm since finishing second to Aldebaran in the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap on July 4.

"He looks great - thrilled to have him back," Reynolds said. "He's ponied a couple of days. Slowly, we're starting the process. [Saturday] we'll put the glue-ons on and there's a signal for him to start."

Reynolds said he hopes to get Peeping Tom ready for the Grade 1, $500,000 Vosburgh on Sept. 27. The Vosburgh has been shortened this year from seven to 6 1/2 furlongs.

"That's his distance," Reynolds said. "He broke his maiden going six and a half."

Small field for Saranac

As of Friday only five horses were considered definite for Monday's Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac Handicap, the closing-day feature, run at 1 3/16 miles on the turf.

Sharp Impact, winner of the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Belmont in June, is the only graded winner of the five. Also considered definite are Urban King, second in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes; Shoal Water, second to Wando in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine; Regal Bear; and Five Eighty Four.

Hidden Truth, second in the Lexington, is possible. Hidden Truth underwent throat surgery following a ninth-place finish in the Hall of Fame Stakes and may wait for an allowance race, according to trainer Neil Howard. Burchfield, an entry-level allowance winner in his turf debut here on Aug. 9, is also possible.