09/30/2003 12:00AM

Empire Maker sent to stud


Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker has been retired. The 3-year-old Unbridled colt will stand his first season at owner and breeder Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky next year for a $100,000 fee.

The fee puts him on a par with recent Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Mineshaft, who also will stand for $100,000 as the 2004 season's most expensive first-year stallions.

Empire Maker's retirement was expected once he defected from last Sunday's Jockey Club Gold Cup with a bruised left front foot. Trainer Bobby Frankel had hinted broadly in recent days that his stable star was headed for retirement.

Empire Maker, a son of the 2002 broodmare of the year Toussaud, won the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, and Belmont, beating Funny Cide in the last two races.

Favored for the Kentucky Derby, Empire Maker bruised a foot the week before the race and wound up second, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Funny Cide. Empire Maker skipped the Preakness but returned to form in the Belmont, beating Ten Most Wanted by three-quarters of a length and giving Frankel his first win in a Triple Crown race.

Empire Maker came back in the Aug. 3 Jim Dandy, finishing second in what would be the last race of his career. He was being pointed for the Travers but had to be withdrawn due to a cough.

Empire Maker retires with a career record of 8-4-3-1 and earnings of $1,985,800.