09/09/2003 11:00PM

Empire Maker ill, may skip Gold Cup


ELMONT, N.Y. - Empire Maker, the Belmont Stakes winner, who scratched out of the Travers Stakes with a cough, has been coughing again and may be forced to miss the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27, trainer Bobby Frankel said Wednesday.

Empire Maker on Wednesday missed his third straight day of training. Frankel said he was waiting on the results of a blood test before determining a course of action. Should the results be good, Frankel planned on sending Empire Maker back to the track Thursday or Friday. If he doesn't like the results, Frankel would likely scrap the Gold Cup and ship Empire Maker to California next week to train up to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

"Worse comes to worse I'll train him up to the Breeders' Cup,'' Frankel said. "I'll send him out there and get him ready. I'll work him with Medaglia d'Oro. They're two good horses, they'll get each other fit. I have no problem.''

Medaglia d'Oro, who won the Whitney and finished second to Candy Ride in the Pacific Classic, is not expected to start again before the Classic.

Frankel scratched Empire Maker out of the Travers when he began to cough and was found to have mucus in his trachea. After being treated with antibiotics, Empire Maker resumed training and has put in two sharp five-furlong works before this most recent setback.

"I had him on clenbuterol, he stopped coughing,'' Frankel said. "We took him off, he started coughing. We'll wait for the blood to come back. I don't want to take a chance at blowing the Breeders' Cup.''

Frankel also revealed that Peace Rules, the Haskell winner and Travers runner-up, had a 103-degree temperature last week after he was shipped from New York to California. Peace Rules has not trained for almost a week. Peace Rules is being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Despite these setbacks, Frankel seemed in good spirits Wednesday morning.

"I know I can get them ready, I'm not worried about it,'' Frankel said. "There's nothing to panic about.''

Frankel's other Breeders' Cup plans

With Aldebaran's performance in the Grade 1 Forego convincing Frankel to run him in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Frankel has decided not to point either Ghostzapper or Midas Eyes to that race.

Ghostzapper, who finished a late-running third in the Grade 1 King's Bishop, also will skip Saturday's Grade 2 Jerome Handicap and instead point to the Grade 1, $500,000 Vosburgh on Sept. 27. He may then be pointed to the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita in late December

Frankel said an expected short field, a larger purse, and the Grade 1 status of the Vosburgh is why he chose to run Ghostzapper in the Vosburgh, rather than the Jerome.

"A big field, I don't think Ghostzapper would run good,'' Frankel said. "He's still learning. I think he can be a really good horse once he gets it all together. We know he's got the ability.''

Midas Eyes, who hasn't raced since finishing second in the Riva Ridge on June 7, has resumed light training, but is still not 100 percent, Frankel said. Frankel was not sure when Midas Eyes, who won the Swale and Derby Trial, would run again.

"He's a little stiff, so I got to work him through it,'' Frankel said.

Meanwhile, Frankel said he plans to ship Beverly D. winner Heat Haze to California for the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita on Sept. 28 and ship in Tates Creek for the Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational here the previous day. Both horses are being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Frankel said Heat Haze, a one-run closer, would prefer firm ground, which she is almost sure to get at Santa Anita. Frankel believes Tates Creek doesn't need a particular surface.

"If it comes up a little soft and there's no pace Tates Creek will be right there the whole way,'' Frankel said.

Meanwhile, Frankel said that Denon, who finished third in the Man o' War, would not be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Turf. Frankel said Denon had been coughing prior to the Man o' War, and would be freshened for a race such as the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup on Nov. 22.

Moon Ballad coming to Belmont for Gold Cup

While the Jockey Gold Cup may lose Empire Maker, the race did pick up a starter in Moon Ballad, the winner of the Dubai World Cup in March. Godolphin Racing announced on its website Wednesday that Moon Ballad would run in the Gold Cup and then the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Moon Ballad is 0 for 3 since beating Harlan's Holiday by five lengths in the World Cup, but all those losses came on turf. Moon Ballad is 3 for 5 on dirt. Last Saturday, in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, Moon Ballad finished fifth, beaten two lengths by High Chaparral, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf and Eclipse Award-winning turf horse.

"Moon Ballad has had a slightly frustrating campaign in Europe, but we were pleased with the way he ran in Ireland on Saturday,'' said Simon Crisford, the racing manager for Godolphin. "He has come out of that race really well and we are pleased with the progress that he has made recently. We know he handles dirt well.''

Gigawatt tries to bounce back in Jerome

Gigawatt, who showed great promise as a 2-year-old when racing in Canada last year, will seek his first graded stakes victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Handicap for 3-year-olds.

Gigawatt, a son of Wild Again, went 2 for 4 last year including a 2 1/4-length victory in the Display Stakes at Canada. But he didn't make it back to the races until June 22 when he won a second-level allowance race at Woodbine.

"He had a bad abscess in his right hind hoof and it took a long time to get him back,'' said John Adger, the racing and bloodstock manager for Bob McNair's Stonerside Stable. "We look for him to finish out the year in good shape.''

Gigawatt finished a well-beaten fourth in a third-level allowance race over a sloppy Saratoga main track. Adger doesn't believe the slop was as big a problem as was the fact Gigawatt ran back in just four weeks.

"He's not a big, robust horse. We might have run him back a little quick,'' Adger said. "We think he'll run well on Saturday.''

Richard Migliore will ride Gigawatt in the Jerome.

* Zavata, who won the Amsterdam Stakes, worked four furlongs in 50.96 seconds over a "good'' Saratoga turf course Wednesday morning. He is being pointed to the Grade 1, $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 5. Trainer Patrick Biancone said Zavata would ship to California on Monday.