11/13/2007 1:00AM

Empire Maker a rising star

EmailLAS VEGAS - After witnessing just a brief example of his first crop of runners, I predict the next big stallion is going to be Empire Maker. In fact, Empire Maker has the makings to be the next A.P. Indy.

Winner of his career debut at one mile, Empire Maker showed a glimpse of his talent at age 2, running third in the Remsen Stakes in just his second start. He began his 3-year-old season finishing second in the Sham Stakes and then dominated the Florida Derby by 9 1/4 lengths. He was well in hand when he defeated a game Funny Cide in the Wood Memorial Stakes, but foot problems plagued him in the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby and that lack of training was evident when he finished second to Funny Cide. Skipping the Preakness, Empire Maker easily won the Belmont Stakes, and then finished second to Strong Hope in the Jim Dandy Stakes, which turned out to be his final race. Prepping for the Travers Stakes, recurring physical ailments forced his early retirement.

Like A.P. Indy, Empire Maker not only has an impeccable pedigree, he also should be an important source of stamina in this country, a rare commodity in this era. While runners by Empire Maker should only improve with age and distance, some will certainly have tactical speed. Unbridled may be revered as a strong source of stamina, but he did thrash champion Housebuster going seven furlongs in the Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream Park. And, thus far, the brilliant Unbridled's Song has been Unbridled's best son at stud, and is more of a speed than stamina influence.

Empire Maker's offspring should not be as precocious as those of Unbridled's Song, but they will be more effective at distances longer than one mile. Empire Maker's runners should relish 1 1/4 miles and beyond, and I expect we will eventually see many of his 3-year-olds succeed in all of the Triple Crown races, possibly even in 2008, and every year thereafter.

Since he first went to stud, I expected it was only a matter of time before A.P. Indy sired a Kentucky Derby winner, and I believe the same of Empire Maker, because their runners are bred to love the Derby distance. While that has not yet happened with A.P. Indy, his runners have come close. Pulpit, a member of A.P. Indy's initial crop, ran fourth while sustaining a career-ending injury in the 1997 Derby, and Aptitude ran a strong second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the 2000 Derby. A.P. Indy has sired winners of the Preakness (Bernardini) and Belmont (Rags to Riches).

It's not unusual for high-profile stallions to attract high-class mares in their first year at stud, but the array of blue-blooded mares that Empire Maker was bred to is astounding. Consider this small sample of 2-year-olds from Empire Maker's first crop:

* Country Star (filly out of Rings a Chime): Winner of the Alcibiades Stakes in her second start after finishing second in a maiden turf event.

* Jedi Code (colt out of Listen Well): Half-brother to Listening, Beautiful Noise, and Solar Echo was impressive winning maiden race at Churchill Downs.

* Mushka (filly out of Sluice): Won maiden race at Belmont on Oct. 19; second dam is stakes winner Lakeway.

* Turn Away (filly out of Averti): Winner of her only start, her dam is a half-sister to Defensive Play.

* Unspoken Fur (filly out of Spoken Fur): Unplaced on turf, she won her dirt debut. Dam won Mother Goose Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks.

* Acoma (filly out of Aurora): Stakes-winning dam is out of blue hen Courtly Dee.

* Arboreta (filly out of Sleep Easy): Stakes-winning dam is a half-sister to Aptitude.

* Battle Plan (colt out of Flanders): Out of champion 2-year-old filly and half-brother to champion Surfside.

* Cairo Escapade (colt out of Sassy Pants): Half-brother to Madcap Escapade and Dubai Escapade.

* Charming Assets (filly out of Storm Away): Second dam is a half-sister to Mariah's Storm, dam of Giant's Causeway.

* China Bank (colt out T.V. Countess): Half-brother to 2-year-old filly champion Countess Diana.

* Dean Henry (filly out of Baydon Belle): Half-sister to Read the Footnotes.

* Dulcet Tone (filly out of Euphonize): Second dam is a half-sister to Danehill.

* Emperor's Tale (Gelding out of Hot Novel): Half-brother to Behrens.

* Empire Baby (filly out of Roll Over Baby): Half-sister to Value Plus, Majorbigtimesheet, Sing Baby Sing, Werblin, Incriminate, and Roll Hennessy Roll.

* Empire Keeper (colt out of Keeper Hill): Out of Kentucky Oaks winner.

* Empiress (filly out of Regal Band): Half-sister to Derby winner Monarchos.

* Geographic (filly out of Dokki): Half-sister to Aptitude; dam is half-sister to Slew o' Gold and Coastal.

* Icon Project (filly out of La Gueriere): Grade 1-winning mare is one of five stakes winners out of Lady Winborne.

* Ivory Empire (colt out of Ivory Idol): Half-brother to 2-year-old champion Anees.

* Love Empire (colt out of Gioconda): Half-brother to multiple Group/Grade 1 winner Ciro; dam is a half-sister to champion Bosra Sham and Hector Protector.

* Mythical Hero (colt out of Jolypha): Dam was a full sister to European champion Dancing Brave and was also a 3-year-old filly champion in France and third to A.P. Indy in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

* Routine (filly out of Tates Creek): First foal out of multiple stakes-winning half-sister to Sightseek.

* Solo Piano (fill