Updated on 09/17/2011 10:04AM

Empire Maker, Frankel's next star?

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Last weekend, he won the Santa Anita Handicap with his second-tier older horse and the Louisiana Derby with a horse that had never before won on dirt. So, what does Bobby Frankel have planned for this weekend?

Well, if things go right, Frankel hopes to leave south Florida with another contender for the Kentucky Derby in Empire Maker, who figures to be the first or second choice in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby [4:15 p.m. Eastern, ESPN]. Frankel also hopes to find out a bit more about Midas Eyes, a horse he purchased privately last summer for owner Ed Gann. Midas Eyes makes his 3-year-old debut in Saturday's $150,000 Swale Stakes.

Frankel arrived in south Florida Monday afternoon from New Orleans, and his two horses were scheduled to hit Gulfstream late Tuesday afternoon from California.

Empire Maker, a son of Unbridled out of the multiple Grade 1 stakes-producing mare Toussaud, has been talked about since last fall when he would work out with - and sometimes outwork - higher profile stablemates such as Medaglia d'Oro. Empire Maker lived up to the hype winning his maiden by 3 1/2 lengths going one mile Oct. 20 at Belmont.

But, a troubled start doomed his chances in the Remsen where he finished third behind Toccet. Then, in last month's Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, Empire Maker finished second again, one length behind Man Among Men.

Frankel has decided to equip Empire Maker with blinkers for the first time in the Florida Derby.

"I think it'll put him into the bridle a little bit more, it'll make him an easier ride for Jerry,' Frankel said, referring to jockey Jerry Bailey. In the Sham Stakes, Frankel said Bailey "had him in tight, and he'd run in spots, but he wasn't trying 100 percent. With the blinkers it'll put him where Jerry will be able to place him wherever he wants.'

Empire Maker has worked several times in blinkers and Frankel said they have made a ``huge difference.'

"He's so much more aggressive,' Frankel said. "I broke him out of the gate and he outbroke four other horses. I worked him with Medaglia d'Oro with the blinkers on and he was really good. They went [in 1:12] and I'd say he was the stronger of the two.'

Though Empire Maker, who is a half-brother to Grade 1 winners Chester House, Honest Lady, and Chiselling, has only a maiden win to his credit, Frankel doesn't view the Florida Derby as must-win situation.

"I'd love to win the race but I'm not concerned about if he wins or loses,' Frankel said. "If he loses I'm not going to be devastated as long as he runs a good race.'

Before shipping to Florida, Empire Maker Monday worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 in company with Midas Eyes, who will run in the Swale for his first start since winning his maiden at Calder by eight lengths last August for his previous trainer, James Hatchett.

Frankel said Midas Eyes wasn't moving 100 percent when he got him and decided to back off the colt's training.

"His knees were wide open and I had a lot of money invested in him, and I didn't want to break him down,' Frankel said. "He's going beautifully now. I had him ready to run a little while back but the races didn't come up right for him. I think I have him pretty fit. I think that 1:11 put him right where I want him to be.'

Wet track alters training

After weeks of nothing but sunshine and fast tracks, Monday's heavy rains made a quagmire of Gulfstream's main track. The track was still sloppy Tuesday morning, forcing trainers Rick Hiles and Mickey Goldfine to postpone scheduled workouts for Florida Derby hopefuls Midway Cat and Senor Swinger.

Instead, Midway Cat jogged once around Gulfstream's main track and Senor Swinger galloped once around. Both trainers said they hoped to work their horses Wednesday if the track dried sufficiently by then.

Judging by the way Midway Cat roared off the track Tuesday, Hiles would like to get in the work to take the edge off the horse. Hiles said an easy work four days before the Fountain of Youth left Midway Cat relatively fresh and wanting to go for the lead. Jockey Jorge Chavez had to wrestle with Midway Cat to get him off the pace, still the horse stayed on well to be third.

"I'm hoping Saturday he'll let Jorge do what he wants to do,' Hiles said. "That's the first time I saw him get out of hand. If he gets a little rank this time we're not going to fight him.'

Meanwhile, Goldfine said Senor Swinger, who is unbeaten in two starts, would either blow out two furlongs Wednesday or an eighth of a mile Thursday. "If not, it's not a big deal. He's ready to go,' Goldfine said.

In a national conference call Tuesday afternoon, Goldfine said that he would also enter Senor Swinger in Sunday's Tampa Bay Derby as a back-up in case he doesn't like the Gulfstream track Saturday.

Senor Swinger has not run since Jan. 31, when he dead-heated for win with Ten Cents a Shine in an entry-level allowance race here.

Massive tries to take next step

Massive has started just twice and has yet to run beyond six furlongs entering Saturday's Swale Stakes. But despite his lack of experience, Massive's connections are still thinking they have a potential Kentucky Derby candidate on their hands.

"A lot of Derby horses have already fallen by the wayside," said James Hatchett, who trains Massive for owner-breeders the Jacks or Better Farm. "The main reason we put our colt away last fall after just one race was to have a lightly raced horse coming into the Triple Crown campaign."

Massive won his lone 2-year-old start by 12 lengths going 4 1/2 furlongs at Calder in August. He did not return until Feb. 15 when he won a first-level allowance race by one length under jockey Pat Day.

"He went to Jacks or Better Farm last summer and we've kept him in Ocala ever since," Hatchett said. "He's a great big, heavy horse, that's how he got his name, and he just seems to do better up there. There isn't a real training track at the farm so he ships over to the Starting Gate Training Center to work. I have 41 horses up there now, including 18 2-year-olds I'm getting ready to bring into Calder this year."

There are no official clockers at Starting Gate but Hatchett said Massive worked five furlongs in 1:00 last Saturday.

"He'll ship into my barn the day before the race," Hatchett said. "Obviously, this is a big test for him. He'll have to run a big race for us to consider something more important but if he does win we'll probably look at one of the upcoming Derby preps around two turns. He's on a tight schedule as far as the Derby and the rest of the Triple Crown races go, and every race out he's going to have to prove himself before we move him up to the next level."

A field of seven to nine 3-year-olds is expected for the Grade 3 Swale led by Whywhywhy. Among the others pointed for the race are Eagle Eyrie, First Blush, Posse, and Roaring Fever. Cajun Beat and Conservation remain possible starters.

Nonsuch Bay eyes Banshee Breeze

Following an impressive 6 1/4-length victory in a Monday allowance race over a sloppy track, Nonsuch Bay will be pointed to the $75,000 Banshee Breeze Stakes April 4, trainer Frank Alexander said. If Nonsuch Bay skips that race, she would then be pointed to the $150,000 Bed o'Roses Breeders' Cup at Aqueduct April 19.

Nonsuch Bay, winless in four starts since winning the Grade 1 Mother Goose last June, rallied from off the pace to win going away under a vigorous hand ride from Mark Guidry. She covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:41.49.

"Very good,' Alexander said when asked about the filly's performance. "He really rode her well. I didn't think you could win being too far back and he had her only three or four lengths out of it.'

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch