09/19/2003 11:00PM

Empire Maker to go in Gold Cup

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The showdown between Mineshaft and Empire Maker is on.

Empire Maker, the Belmont Stakes winner, worked six furlongs in 1:12.64 on Saturday morning at Belmont Park, a move good enough to earn him a spot in the starting gate in next Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"He's going to run as long as he's fine the rest of the week," Frankel said.

In the Gold Cup, Empire Maker will take on leading handicap horse Mineshaft, as well as Moon Ballad, the Dubai World Cup winner. Evening Attire and Saarland are also likely. Moon Ballad arrived in New York on Saturday morning and was expected to be released from Aqueduct's quarantine facility on Sunday afternoon.

Empire Maker has not run since he was beaten a neck by Strong Hope in the Jim Dandy on Aug. 3. A cough forced Empire Maker to miss the Travers on Aug. 23, and Empire Maker was coughing again about two weeks ago, prompting Frankel to consider skipping the Gold Cup. But, Empire Maker put in two solid works during the week, and Frankel believes the colt is back to his old self.

Another sign that Empire Maker may be back to himself was his pre-work behavior. Empire Maker, under Aaron Gryder, at first refused to go. After several minutes, and with Gryder instructing his accompanying pony to leave him, Empire Maker finally got moving. He began his workout about three lengths behind stablemate Epicentre and finished about a half-length in front. Empire Maker, who wore blinkers during the move, got his final quarter-mile in 23.20 seconds.

"He's done that in the past - he's done that quite often, actually," Gryder said of Empire Maker's pre-work shenanigans. "If you let him stand there and do his thing, he'll get going eventually. His work was great."

Also Saturday, Frankel confirmed that Sightseek would run in the Beldame here on Oct. 4 and that Wild Spirit would run in the Spinster at Keeneland the following day. Frankel also confirmed that Heat Haze would run in Saturday's Flower Bowl and that Tates Creek would remain in California for the Sept. 28 Yellow Ribbon.