Updated on 09/17/2011 11:27AM

Empire Maker points to Belmont

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Empire Maker (outside) inches toward Funny Cide (6) on the turn in the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Empire Maker, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby, will have to wait for a rematch with Funny Cide.

Trainer Bobby Frankel said Thursday that Empire Maker, who finished second to Funny Cide in the Derby, will skip the Preakness and be pointed to the Belmont Stakes on June 7. On Monday, Frankel said both Empire Maker and Peace Rules, who was third in the Derby, were probable for the Preakness, but by Thursday he had changed his mind about Empire Maker.

"You've still got the Travers, you've still got the Haskell and the Jim Dandy," Frankel said during training hours at Hollywood Park. "There's no use burying your horse at this time of year. I'd rather win the Travers than the Preakness."

Empire Maker, an Unbridled colt bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, was troubled by a minor bruise to his right front hoof leading into the Derby. Asked if the foot was a factor, Frankel was dismissive and said, "It's fine."

Frankel said he strongly believes that Empire Maker is the best horse in the 3-year-old division, but that "he'll have to prove it in the Belmont. I take as much blame for him getting beat as anything. I pampered him a little too much. If he wins the Belmont, it will all be forgotten."

With Empire Maker out of the Preakness, the complexion of the May 17 classic at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore could change substantially in the next several days.

As of Thursday afternoon, the number of definite starters was only five, a number that likely will entice the connections of several other 3-year-olds. The five are Funny Cide, Peace Rules, Indian Express, Senor Swinger, and Scrimshaw. At least one other horse, Midway Road, appears likely to head to Pimlico from Churchill Downs, while another Churchill colt, Champali, also remains under serious consideration. On Thursday, Maryland-based trainer Gary Capuano said he was leaning toward running Cherokee's Boy in the Preakness, rather than in the Sir Barton on the undercard.

And Frankel might have another potential starter in Midas Eyes, who won the Derby Trial at Churchill. Peace Rules and Midas Eyes have similar running styles and are owned by Edmund Gann, so it seems unlikely that both would run.

Midas Eyes is scheduled to breeze Sunday at Belmont, after which a determination will be made on whether to run the speedy colt in the Preakness or the May 26 Met Mile. "We'll see how he breezes," said Frankel. "I'd say right now, I'm leaning on just Peace Rules."

Midas Eyes would be ridden in the Preakness by Jerry Bailey, Empire Maker's regular rider. If Midas Eyes does not run, Bailey would try to get the mount on Champali, according to Bailey's agent, Ron Anderson.

"I'm just trying to land on my feet," said Anderson.

Champali breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 Thursday at Churchill, after which trainer Greg Foley said he was keeping his options open. Foley said that the $100,000 Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard is an enticing spot and that he does not necessarily want to run in the Preakness.

"We're going to see what happens the next day or two," Foley said. "We're ready to go, if that's what we want to do."

In other Preakness developments:

* Midway Road, a winner of 3 of 7 starts, "is only a possibility to run" in the Preakness, trainer Neil Howard said Thursday at Churchill.

"We're like a few other people, just ready to do something if a couple of changes occur," said Howard. "He'll have an easy half-mile Monday and go from there."

Robby Albarado would have the mount on Midway Road, who won a second-level allowance race at Keeneland in his last start April 24.

Midway Road, owned by Will Farish, would be the first Preakness starter for Howard since he won the 1990 running with Summer Squall. Howard's last Triple Crown runner was Parade Ground, who was sixth in the Derby and fourth in the Belmont in 1998.

* At Belmont Park in New York, Funny Cide was just coming on the track for his morning exercise Thursday morning when a loose horse from the Bill Mott barn went whizzing by. Funny Cide didn't turn a hair, according to exercise rider and assistant trainer Robin Smullen.

"My heart sunk to my feet, but he doesn't care about that kind of stuff," Smullen said. "He was like, 'What's everybody looking at, it's just a loose horse.' "

Funny Cide then proceeded to canter 1 3/8 miles the wrong way over a muddy Belmont track. "I let him go the speed he wanted to go today," Smullen said.

Smullen said she can't believe how much energy Funny Cide has shown since the Derby.

"It's amazing that he bounced back like that," Smullen said. "I don't know how he keeps coming out of his races like this, but he does."

Funny Cide, a gelding by Distorted Humor, is the first New York-bred horse to win the Derby. On Monday, the members of Sackatoga Stable, which owns Funny Cide, will join trainer Barclay Tagg and jockey Jose Santos in Albany, where they will be honored by the New York legislature and Gov. George Pataki.

* Gary Stevens has been named to ride Scrimshaw in the Preakness by trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said Craig O'Bryan, agent for Stevens. Scrimshaw, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, finished 11th in the Derby under Cornelio Velasquez. The Lewises also own Preakness starter Senor Swinger, but the colts will not be coupled for wagering purposes. Stevens also will ride Santa Catarina in the May 16 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, said O'Bryan.

* Atswhatimtalknbout returned to the track for the first time since his late-running fourth-place finish in the Derby, jogging an easy mile at Churchill. Atswhatimtalknbout is being cared for by Paul McGee for his California-based brother-in-law, trainer Ron Ellis, who is pointing the colt to the Belmont and will not consider the Preakness.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and David Grening