04/07/2003 11:00PM

Empire Maker has Wood journey delayed

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It was not Mother Nature but a plane's mechanical failure that was to delay by one day the arrival of Empire Maker for Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Scheduled to leave Monday night aboard a cargo plane, Empire Maker and stablemates Aldebaran and Special Rate remained in Los Angeles after the plane suffered some sort of mechanical problem and could not take off. The trio of horses twice made the short trip from Hollywood Park to Los Angeles International Airport only to return to trainer Bobby Frankel's barn.

According to Frankel, if the plane was fixed in time, the horses were to leave Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. If not, then they would be on a second plane that was scheduled to leave Tuesday at 10 p.m. Pacific. Either way, the three horses were expected to be at Aqueduct Wednesday morning.

"The only inconvenience was they went to the airport twice," said Frankel, "but the airport's only five minutes away so it's not a big deal. I wanted to leave [Tuesday] night anyway because of the weather, so maybe it's a blessing."

While Empire Maker may miss a day of training because of the delay, he certainly wouldn't have been scheduled to do much on Aqueduct's main track Wednesday morning anyway. Following a six-inch snowstorm that hit New York on Monday, Aqueduct's main track was extremely sloppy Tuesday.

With rain in the forecast for Wednesday and Friday, there's a strong chance the Wood will be run over an off track.

Pete Sinacori, the assistant track superintendent, said that if the predicted rains did fall, "then Saturday will be a wet track of some sort."

Sinacori said the track was sealed Monday, and while the track is extremely wet on top, the cushion is in good shape.

"You could walk across the top of it and not sink in," Sinacori said. "We're happy with the way it is."

Fortunately, the temperature is not expected to dip below freezing, which should alleviate fears of the track freezing then thawing, possibly creating ice chunks in the surface.

The prospect of an off track for the Wood doesn't worry Frankel: "I don't think Empire Maker would have trouble handling it."

Storm Flag Flying still Comely-bound

Monday's snowstorm forced the closure of Belmont's main track for training on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials are hopeful the track can reopen Thursday morning.

Trainer Shug McGaughey, who trains almost exclusively over the main track, said the closure of the main track for two days would not affect Storm Flag Flying's status for next Friday's Comely Stakes at Aqueduct. Storm Flag Flying, last year's 2-year-old filly champion, breezed four furlongs Sunday in 47.34 seconds over the main track. After a day off Monday, Storm Flying galloped one mile Tuesday over the training track.

McGaughey also said that Yell, the Davona Dale winner who finished a distant fourth in last Saturday's Ashland at Keeneland, could still run in the Kentucky Oaks. Yell was scheduled to arrive at McGaughey's Belmont barn Tuesday afternoon on a flight from Lexington.

"I'll train her for a few days and evaluate the situation. Possibly she could run back," McGaughey said.

Of the Ashland, McGaughey said, "Throw that race out. She didn't get away good, and that sort of compromised everything. The Churchill track should suit her a lot better than Keeneland."

Beautiful America returns Thursday

Beautiful America, recently voted champion New York-bred 2-year-old filly for 2002, will make her 3-year-old debut Thursday in an entry-level, open-company allowance race at six furlongs.

Beautiful America won 4 of 6 starts at 2, including the restricted Joseph A. Gimma and Maid of the Mist stakes. Her only loss against fillies came in the East View Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. She also ran third against males in the New York Breeders Futurity at Finger Lakes.

Beautiful America spent most of the winter in Florida, where she had an uninterrupted training schedule, according to trainer Mike Hernandez, who is hoping to use Thursday's race as a stepping-stone to the $100,000 Park Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes at one mile on April 27.

Beautiful America will be part of a field that includes Lizzy Cool, winner of the Ruthless Stakes and the one to catch in this spot, and Xtra Heart, who finished second in both the Busanda and Busher stakes.

Beautiful America has not raced over an off track, but her sire, Dixie Brass, was a potent wet-track runner.

Alysweep 'knocked out' of Derby

Alysweep, who won the Gotham last month, is off the Triple Crown trail after finishing seventh in Saturday's Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.

Trainer Pat Reynolds said Alysweep, who was the third choice, came out of the 1 1/8-mile race a "little knocked out."

"He is better than that," Reynolds said. "There were a combination of factors - the ship, the new track. We are going to shorten him up, because he might not want to go that far. I think we might have a nice one-turn mile horse."

Reynolds said the $150,000 Withers, a mile race at Aqueduct on May 3, Kentucky Derby Day, is a possibility for Alysweep, a son of End Sweep.

Onthedeanslist earns Westchester berth

Onthedeanslist earned himself a start in next month's $100,000 Westchester Handicap with a hard-fought half-length victory over My Request in a one-mile classified allowance race Sunday. The Westchester, run at one mile, is the opening-day feature at Belmont, May 7.

It was the fifth career win from eight starts for Onthedeanslist, who is 3 for 3 at Aqueduct. Coming from slightly off the pace, Onthedeanslist covered one mile in 1:36.04 seconds.

"He seems to do just enough to win," trainer John Terranova said. "He waits on horses and just puts out just enough effort. He came back great out of the race; didn't seem tired."

Deadline readies for Bay Shore

Deadline worked three furlongs in a bullet 36 seconds at Laurel Park on Tuesday for Saturday's $150,000 Bay Shore.

Deadline enters the seven-furlong Bay Shore off a career-best effort in the Horatius Stakes at Laurel on March 23. Deadline earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for his neck win over Gators N Bears, who is also probable for the Bay Shore.

Trained by John Salzman, Deadline has won 4 of 7 lifetime starts. His sole defeat this year came in the Best Turn at Aqueduct on Feb. 22, when he finished fifth in the slop. The Best Turn winner, Second in Command, was no match for Deadline in their rematch in the Horatius and finished eighth.

"All of Deadline's races have been good except the [Best Turn]," Salzman said. "If you look at the race, you'll see his hind end slip at the start, and he lost ground, and then the jock had him wide because of the mud."

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson