04/10/2003 12:00AM

Empire Maker faces 7 in Wood


Empire Maker drew the far outside post in a field of eight and has been installed as the prohibitive 3-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday's 79th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Empire Maker is considered by many to be the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby based on his 9 3/4-length romp in last month's Florida Derby-G1 at Gulfstream Park. Empire Maker is trained by Bobby Frankel, and will again be ridden by regular rider Jerry Bailey.

Despite the presence of Empire Maker, seven challengers have entered the Wood Memorial to try to earn their may into the gate for the Kentucky Derby. The competition in the Wood will include horses such as Louisiana Derby third-place finisher Funny Cide (post 4, 6-1) and Florida Derby third-place finisher Indy Dancer (post 6, 5-1).

Other notables in the Wood Memorial field include Lane's End Stakes winner New York Hero (post 1, 8-1), and Senor Swinger, who won his first two career starts before finishing fifth behind Empire Maker and Indy Dancer in the Florida Derby. In the Wood Memorial, Senor Swinger will be making his first start for trainer Bob Baffert after being purchased recently by Bob and Beverly Lewis.

The field will be completed by allowance winner Kissin Saint (post 3, 20-1) who is 3-for-3 this year, undefeated Private Terms Stakes winner Sky Soldier (post 7, 15-1), and Spite the Devil (post 2, 30-1).

The Wood Memorial will be race 8 on Aqueduct's 10-race Saturday card. post time will be 4:15 Eastern time. The Wood will be the first leg of the national Big 3 Pick 3 wager which also includes Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes (5:15 Eastern) and Oaklawn's Arkansas Derby (5:45 Eastern).

1 NEW YORK HERO J. Pedersen N. Arroyo 8-1
2 SPITE THE DEVIL A. Jerkens M. Luzzi30-1
3 KISSIN SAINT L. Lewis R. Migliore 20-1
4 FUNNY CIDE B. Tagg J. Santos 6-1
5 SENOR SWINGER B. Baffert G. Stevens 10-1
6 INDY DANCER T. Pletcher J. Velazquez 5-1
7 SKY SOLDIER T. Beattie R. Madrigal 15-1
8 EMPIRE MAKER B. Frankel J. Bailey 3-5