11/28/2002 12:00AM

Empire Maker evokes Northern Dancer


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - There will be an infrequent air of excitement at Aqueduct Saturday, and not only because of the remarkably competitive field organized this late in the season for the $350,000 Cigar Mile.

Every racing fan in the country has heard about Empire Maker, who, after a single start, is widely regarded as the foremost prospect for the spring classics.

In fact, his pedigree made him a star even before his striking debut at Belmont Park on Oct. 20, when he came from off the pace like a seasoned veteran to win smartly going a mile by 3 1/2 lengths. Was that the real McCoy? We should learn more in Saturday's $200,000 Remsen, when Empire Maker faces a strong field, including the Champagne and Laurel Futurity winner, Toccet.

Empire Maker could be the most highly regarded young horse to run in the Remsen since Northern Dancer, who won in 1963 as a 1-4 favorite and then went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Part of the mystique building rapidly about this handsome colt deals with his faultless bloodlines. He is by Unbridled, the 1990 Kentucky Derby winner, who is the sire of the 1996 Derby winner, Grindstone. Empire Maker's dam, Toussaud, has produced the Arlington Million winner Chester House, and such other good stakes winners as Honest Lady, Decarchy, and Chiselling.

His connections are equally impressive. He was bred and is owned by the Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah, one of the world's most successful horsemen. He is trained by Bobby Frankel, who leads in the national standings and threatens to break the single-season record for earnings. And he is ridden by Jerry Bailey, who leads in the national standings and who threatens to break the single-season record for earnings by a jockey.

"I hope he is as good as I think he is," Frankel said. "He's got the pedigree to go long and he looks the part of a good horse. You couldn't find one better-looking."

With all his attributes Empire Maker is being asked to take a tremendous step forward. He is conceding substantive experience to almost all of his Remsen opponents. But Frankel, a Hall of Fame horseman, is aware of this and his decision to run speaks loudly in Empire Maker's direction.

Multiple Choice to upset in Cigar

The Cigar Mile is fraught with possibilities. The race has ample speed in Bonapaw and Congaree and the pace should be realistic.

That scenario often favors stretch-runners, like Aldebaran and Multiple Choice. Aldebaran has run well all season, placing to such proven stars as Orientate, Voodoo, Swept Overboard, and Bonapaw. But Multiple Choice loves Aqueduct, as he indicated in winning the Sport Page Handicap. He is in good form and we like his chances of upsetting the Cigar.

* The $200,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies is another attraction of Saturday's outstanding HolidayFest program. Fircroft and Summer Scene appear to have an edge in a competitive race. Fircroft has the seasoning but Summer Scene's recent victory was strong enough to merit support.