Updated on 09/17/2011 11:35AM

Empire Maker to go in Jersey Derby


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel dropped a bombshell Saturday morning when he dropped Empire Maker's name in the entry box for Monday's $100,000 Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park. Frankel plans to use the race as a prep for the June 7 Belmont Stakes.

The Jersey Derby, which had been scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on turf, has been moved to the dirt because of extremely soft turf conditions.

Frankel made the decision to enter Empire Maker in the Jersey Derby because he doesn't want to work the colt over a wet track. Belmont's main track has been sloppy for the past several days, and the forecast calls for intermittent showers through midweek.

"I can't train," Frankel said Saturday morning at Belmont, where Empire Maker is stabled. "I can't run a mile and a half without training. It's better than trying to train him here. If I get that race into him, I'll be fine."

Empire Maker, who won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial and finished second as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, has worked twice at Belmont Park since that race. On May 14, Empire Maker worked four furlongs in 48.76 seconds. On May 20, he drilled six furlongs in 1:12.04.

Frankel said he did not enter Empire Maker in Saturday's Peter Pan at Belmont because the colt coughed one morning during the middle of the week. Frankel said he has not been able to gallop Empire Maker since the last work.

Frankel has named Aaron Gryder to ride Empire Maker in the Jersey Derby. Jerry Bailey, Empire Maker's regular rider, is scheduled to ride the Frankel-trained Aldebaran in Monday's Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont.

Robert Kulina, Monmouth's general manager, said the decision to take the Jersey Derby off the grass was made Saturday morning in consultation with turf course superintendent Bob Juliano and the jockeys. Kulina said that when he spoke to the jockeys, he did not inform them that Empire Maker was entered in the Jersey Derby.

Frankel said the only way he would not run Empire Maker in the Jersey Derby was if Belmont's main track was fast Monday, allowing Empire Maker to breeze. That scenario appears highly unlikely.

Seven other 3-year-olds have been entered against Empire Maker in the Jersey Derby. Only the Steve Klesaris-trained entry of Happy Trails and Angelic Aura has done more than win one race. Stone Canyon, a son of Mt. Livermore trained by Mark Hennig, won his maiden on the front end going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park on May 7. He may be the only threat to Empire Maker.

Flank Attack, Hogan's Spirit, Shoalih's Tale, and the maiden Wesman round out the field.

Creme Fraiche, who finished second in the 1985 Jersey Derby, is the last horse to have successfully used the Jersey Derby as a prep for the Belmont. Other Belmont winners to have prepped in the Jersey Derby, a signature race of now-defunct Garden State Park, were Jaipur, Pass Catcher, and Hail to All.

Go Rockin' Robin upsets Peter Pan

Go Rockin' Robin, who was bred by the same people and born at the same place as fellow New York-bred Funny Cide - the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner - romped to a six-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 .

The victory was worth $120,000 to owners Herbert and Carol Schwartz. That prize would cover the $100,000 supplemental fee and $20,000 in entry fees it would take to run Go Rockin' Robin in the Belmont Stakes on June 7. Go Rockin' Robin is not Triple Crown nominated.

"It's a possibility," said Scott Schwartz, the trainer of Go Rockin' Robin and the son of Herbert Schwartz. "He definitely can go a mile and a half. Can he go against Funny Cide, Empire Maker, and Dynever? Who knows?'

Go Rockin' Robin, a son of Distorted Humor whom Scott Schwartz purchased for $15,000 as a weanling, was pulling jockey Shaun Bridgmohan out of the saddle in the early stages of the Peter Pan while sitting in fifth position. Alysweep, under Jerry Bailey, and Christine's Outlaw, under Eibar Coa, dueled through fractions of 22.69 seconds, 44.98, and 1:08.91. Go Rockin' Robin moved into third around the far turn, drew on even terms with Alysweep at the quarter pole, and drew off down the lane under several cracks of Bridgmohan's right-handed whip.

Go Rockin' Robin covered nine furlongs in 1:48.47 in the slop and returned $28 to win.

Alysweep did well to hold second, three-quarters of a length in front of Supervisor. While Alysweep is questionable to run back in the Belmont, Supervisor is a "good possibility,' according to trainer Linda Rice and owner Richard Lundock.

Tagg worried about track surface

Barclay Tagg said he would like to work Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide on Tuesday, but he is becoming increasingly concerned about Belmont's main track. Funny Cide jogged on Friday and Saturday, going once around the wrong way at 5:30 a.m.

"That track is bruising a lot of horses' feet, and I'm not going to breeze him on it the way the track is," Tagg said.

Funny Cide trained over a sloppy Belmont track on April 22, his first work after finishing second in the Wood, and the gelding handled it fine.

"The track's worse now than it was then," Tagg said. "I just think there's so much mud on it now that it's probably not as safe underneath there."

Tagg said the track's condition is the fault of bad weather, not bad maintenance.

"It's an outdoor sport," he said. "You can't do much about it."

* The foot bruise that had been bothering Atswhatimtalknbout in recent days popped open on Saturday morning, drained, and gave the colt immediate relief, according to his trainer, Ron Ellis. "I feel a lot better today than [Friday]," Ellis said from Churchill Downs, where Atswhatimtalknbout is scheduled to work on Tuesday.

* Ramon Dominguez has been named to ride Colita in the Belmont Stakes, said Barry Irwin, head of Team Valor Stable, which owns controlling interest in the colt. Dominguez, the leading rider on the Maryland circuit, rode Colita to an entry-level allowance win at Aqueduct in January.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman