06/24/2003 12:00AM

Empire Maker back to work


ELMONT, N.Y. - For the first time in a week, Belmont Park's main track on Tuesday morning was dry and fast. Horsemen took full advantage of the pristine conditions as a total of 289 horses - including 10 Grade 1 winners - were credited with timed workouts. An additional 136 horses were timed in workouts over the training track.

While at times the main track looked like the Long Island Expressway at rush hour, it played like a freshly paved thoroughfare as 25 of the 80 workouts at five furlongs were timed in under a minute.

"The track is glib, you could do some running over it,'' one clocker said.

Among the leaders of the equine brigade was the Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker, who picked up some unexpected company during his five-furlong breeze clocked in 58.64 seconds. It was Empire Maker's first breeze since his Belmont victory, in which he denied Funny Cide the Triple Crown. Empire Maker is being pointed to the $500,000 Jim Dandy on Aug. 3 at Saratoga.

During the work, Empire Maker spotted a Gary Sciacca-trained horse who had broken off several lengths in front of him. Empire Maker, who was fitted with blinkers for the move, clearly wanted to go after him while exercise rider Jose Cuevas did his best to restrain him.

Empire Maker nearly caught the Sciacca trainee at the wire and galloped out past him a few strides past the finish line. Trainer Bobby Frankel admitted the move was faster than he wanted, but didn't think it was a big deal.

"I'm sure he's all right,'' Frankel said.

Cuevas said Empire Maker pulled up fine and dove right into his feed back at the barn.

Midas Eyes, another Frankel 3-year-old, worked a much more manageable five furlongs in 1:02.45 before the renovation break. He is being pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Dwyer Stakes on July 6.

Sky Mesa moves fast, too

Sky Mesa, who was undefeated last season as a 2-year-old but has yet to run this year, zipped five furlongs in 59.01 seconds under exercise rider Danny Ramsey.

Donna Ward, wife of and assistant trainer to John, timed Sky Mesa seven furlongs from the six-furlong pole and caught him in 1:24.20 and galloping out a mile in 1:40.

"He really worked well today, he got a little tired, not leg-weary but he got to blowing,'' Donna Ward said.

Sky Mesa, who last raced in early October in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, is close to making his 3-year-old debut. One option is the Dwyer, though it is not the modus operandi of the Wards to run in a stakes race off what would be a nine-month layoff.

"Nothing harder than to go up against horses that have been running,'' Donna Ward said. "I have to train him a little differently than I normally would. I prefer to get my fitness in between these couple of fast works, but with this weather you have to be a magician.''

Ward said she wants Sky Mesa's next work to be out of the gate, and following that move she and John would decide whether to run in the Dwyer.

The Dwyer could come up a very strong race. In addition to Midas Eyes, others pointing to the race are Dynever, Best Minister, Strong Hope, Colita, and Go Rockin' Robin. Possibles include Nacheezmo and Supervisor.

Strong Hope looked very good Tuesday morning working five furlongs in 58.47 seconds under Angel Cordero, edging clear of workmate Yarico's Pond late. Strong Hope won a second-level allowance race for trainer Todd Pletcher on Belmont Day.

Harlan's Holiday, Evening Attire work

Harlan's Holiday, who finished last as the favorite in the Brooklyn Handicap, worked five furlongs in 1:00.62 in company with Volkonsky (1:01.25) in preparation for a start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Suburban Handicap on July 5.

Pletcher had hoped to use the Brooklyn as a stepping-stone to the Whitney on Aug. 2 at Saratoga, but said Harlan's Holiday needed another race in between.

In the Brooklyn, Harlan's Holiday turned his head as the gate doors opened, broke slowly, and didn't seem to care for the sloppy track.

"He didn't get much out of it,'' Pletcher said. "Everything went wrong at the start. He was way back on a track that was favoring speed and a track he didn't care for. We'll just throw it out and try again.''

Following the renovation break, Evening Attire worked five furlongs in 1:00.74 while under a tight hold from exercise rider Danny Vogt. Evening Attire finished fourth in the Brooklyn and trainer Pat Kelly lists him as just "a possible'' for the Suburban.

Kelly would prefer to run Evening Attire around two turns and has also nominated him to the United Nations Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile turf race, at Monmouth Park. Kelly would run only if the race were moved to the main track.

Though Evening Attire finished fourth in the Brooklyn, Kelly seemed glad to just get him back in the game. It was his first start in seven months.

"He needed to run,'' Kelly said. "I don't think anybody was going to beat [Iron Deputy] that day, not the way it came up. He got back in action. There are plenty of races as the year goes on. It's a work in progress.''

Peeping Tom aimed at BC Sprint

Following his 1 3/4-length victory in Saturday's James B. Moseley Breeders' Cup Handicap at Suffolk Downs, Peeping Tom is likely to get a two-month freshening and be brought back in the fall for a run at the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"We would definitely think about the Breeders' Cup. He got that good again,'' trainer Pat Reynolds said. "That was a really, really good field he beat, and the track was a little slow. [My Cousin Matt] turned for home and opened up on us and Tom still got him.''

The Moseley was Peeping Tom's fifth race in 10 weeks. He finished third in the Carter, Bold Ruler, and Metropolitan Mile, and fourth in the Churchill Downs Handicap. Peeping Tom will probably be sent to a farm while racing is conducted at Saratoga before rejoining Reynolds in early September.

"With an elected type of rest rather than a forced rest you can bring a horse back when you want,'' Reynolds said. "If we're not tempted to run elsewhere, we'll bring him back after Saratoga.''

The race in which Reynolds could be tempted is the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 12. Reynolds already plans to ship Vagrancy winner Shawklit Mint to Calder that day for the $500,000 Princess Rooney.

Bossanova aimed at Mike Lee

Bossanova, a New York-bred formerly based in Southern California, has been transferred to trainer James Bond and is expected to make his first start against New York-breds in Saturday's $100,000 Mike Lee Handicap.

Bossanova, a son of Pine Bluff, went 1 for 5 while racing in California and Kentucky for trainer Christopher Paasch. In his last start, Bossanova set a strong pace in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs, only to be run down late by Posse. Posse came back to win the Grade 2 Riva Ridge Stakes at Belmont Park.

Tuesday, Bossanova worked four furlongs in 48.04 seconds at Saratoga and was vanned down to Belmont later in the afternoon.

Those expected to run in the Mike Lee are Acceptable Venture, Infinite Justice, Jet Alert, Limone Forte, Looking Grand, Spite the Devil, and possibly Manhattan Express.

Tuesday, Spite the Devil worked six furlongs in 1:13.07 over the main track.

The Mike Lee is the first leg of the Big Apple Triple, a series of races for New York-bred 3-year-olds that includes the New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 19 and the Albany Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 19. There is a $250,000 bonus paid out to the connections of a horse that can win all three races.