Updated on 09/17/2011 11:17AM

Empire Maker gets the job done

Empire Maker (left) holds safe a stubborn Funny Cide by a neck to take the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The sun came out, the temperature rose to seasonable levels, and the crowd was 19,392. Those were the only upsets Saturday at Aqueduct.

Empire Maker gave his connections just what they were looking for Saturday - a purposeful, though not taxing, half-length victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 .

Funny Cide, the New York-bred gelding, ran a strong race to be second, 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Kissin Saint. New York Hero, Senor Swinger, Indy Dancer, Sky Soldier, and Spite the Devil completed the order of finish.

The Wood victory, coupled with his demonstrative score in last month's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, will send Empire Maker to Louisville as the overwhelming favorite for the May 3 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Frankel will most likely also have the second choice as Peace Rules romped to victory in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland.

Empire Maker was scheduled to ship to Kentucky on Sunday morning.

"You got confidence, but you're still going into a big race, you can never be overconfident," said Frankel, who is 0 for 4 in the Kentucky Derby. "You can talk all you want, but until they do it on the racetrack . . . I just want to get there, let [Empire Maker] run his race and hopefully, we can get the money."

Frankel shipped Empire Maker to New York just hoping to get the 3-year-old safely around the racetrack without having jockey Jerry Bailey use the horse vigorously. It worked out exactly that way as Bailey only lightly tapped Empire Maker right-handed inside the sixteenth pole when Empire Maker began to lug in while gawking at the Aqueduct grandstand. The race was run over a muddy track.

"This is exactly what I would have hoped would have happened," said Bailey, who won his first Wood. "That he handled the track all right, and that he wouldn't get bumped around too much. I knew if he handled the track going into the first turn, that the track wouldn't wear him out, then it was just up to me not to win off by eight, nine, or 10 lengths.'

"That's what we were trying to do,' Frankel said. "He ran a great race; the second horse ran a great race. This is a special horse.'

According to Dr. John Chandler, president of Juddmonte Farms, the owner of Empire Maker, it was the 100th Grade 1 stakes victory for Juddmonte.

Breaking from post 8, Bailey guided Empire Maker into third position while New York Hero set the pace, chased by Funny Cide. New York Hero maintained a one-length lead after running six furlongs in 1:11.19.

Approaching the quarter pole, Funny Cide and Empire Maker went past New York Hero. Though Funny Cide was stubborn, Empire Maker took the lead inside the eighth pole. Empire Maker covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.70 and returned $3.10 as the 1-2 favorite.

Barclay Tagg, the trainer of Funny Cide, said he was extremely happy with his gelding's performance and that he would most likely proceed to the Derby.

"You don't want to put them through that hassle unless you really got a shot,' Tagg said. "It looks like he's got a shot so I guess we have got to go.'