08/15/2003 11:00PM

Empire Maker tunes up for Travers


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Strong Hope upset Empire Maker in the Jim Dandy Stakes two weeks ago. On Saturday morning, Empire Maker served notice that he looks ready to turn the tables in next Saturday's $1 million Travers, putting in a very strong six-furlong workout over Saratoga's main track.

Four of the seven horses under consideration for the Travers worked out on Saturday morning, including Strong Hope and Congrats at Saratoga and Ten Most Wanted at Santa Anita. Sky Mesa worked Friday, and Wild and Wicked is scheduled to work Tuesday. Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, remains doubtful for the race.

Empire Maker, with blinkers on and Aaron Gryder up, worked in company with Milwaukee Brew, the multiple Grade 1-winning 5-year-old, who had Edgar Prado aboard. Empire Maker started about a length ahead of Milwaukee Brew, but when Milwaukee Brew came to his flank in the stretch, Empire Maker opened up again. He was timed for six furlongs in 1:12.72. What impressed Gryder most, however, was how willing Empire Maker was to gallop out, something he can be quirky about.

"It was a much better work than before the Jim Dandy," said Gryder, who has worked Empire Maker before several of his major races but who does not ride the colt in his races. "I was excited before the Belmont, and I was excited after that work this morning, especially the way he galloped out. He sometimes tries to cut it short, but he never tried to cut it short today. If he's happy to gallop out, I'm going to let him."

Jerry Bailey has the mount on Empire Maker in the Travers.

Trainer Bobby Frankel said Saturday's work reminded him of the way Empire Maker repelled Ten Most Wanted in the stretch of the Belmont Stakes.

"When you get to him, he goes again," Frankel said. "I think he likes competition. After the work, if everything goes right this week, I'm very confident."

Frankel also worked Medaglia d'Oro, who was credited for six furlongs in 1:14.26. Milwaukee Brew's six-furlong time was recorded as a bullet 1:12.66.

Milwaukee Brew and Medaglia d'Oro were scheduled to fly to California on Monday for Sunday's Grade 1 Pacific Classic.

Strong Hope's work pleases Pletcher

Strong Hope, in his first work since winning the Jim Dandy on Aug. 3, worked five furlongs in company with Schuylerville winner Ashado.

Ashado, who broke off behind Strong Hope, ranged up outside of Strong Hope at the top of the stretch, but Strong Hope eased away and was alone at the wire.

The official time for Strong Hope's work was 1:01.42, breezing. Strong Hope, who was ridden by exercise rider Judy Krajewski, galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.90.

Strong Hope's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said he timed Strong Hope in 1:01. Either way, he said the move was perfect and that the colt "wouldn't have blown out a match" after the work.

Pletcher said Strong Hope would now gallop up to Saturday's Travers.

"I worked them in company more for [Ashado's] benefit," Pletcher said. "She broke off behind to give her a target. Strong Hope is a very good work horse. I was going to work him [Sunday], but with the forecast I moved it up. I worked him seven days out for the Jim Dandy, and he ran well off of that."

Ashado's final time was 1:01.76. A three-length winner of the Grade 2 Schuylerville here on opening day, Ashado is being pointed to the Grade 1 Spinaway on Aug. 29.

Ten Most Wanted to get blinkers

At Santa Anita, Ten Most Wanted, runner-up in both the Belmont and Swaps stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:13 in company with Sharbayan, who was timed in 1:13.60. According to trainer Wally Dollase, Ten Most Wanted started several lengths behind Sharbayan and finished about three lengths in front.

Ten Most Wanted worked in French-cup blinkers, commonly known as cheaters, and will wear them in the Travers. Ten Most Wanted ran his first three races in blinkers, but he has not had them on for his last five starts. Dollase felt that Ten Most Wanted was not totally focused when he was defeated a head by During in the Swaps on July 13.

"The last three works have been with the blinkers, and I have noticed the difference," said Dollase, who won the 1997 Travers with Deputy Commander, Ten Most Wanted's sire. "He's concentrating on what he's doing rather than goofing off. I'm taking a big gamble going back there, but I've seen him run some really good races, and maybe this will be one of them."

Ten Most Wanted was expected to ship from California to New York on Sunday. He will be accompanied by Dollase's daughter, Aimee.

Congrats works; Shug on fence

Congrats, the third-place finisher in the Jim Dandy, worked five furlongs in 1:02.71 Saturday over the Oklahoma training track. Congrats was wearing blinkers during his work, equipment he has not worn during a race. Trainer Shug McGaughey said he has not decided whether he will enter Congrats in the Travers.

"I caught him in 1:01-and-change and had him galloping out in 1:15 by himself," McGaughey said. "I'm sitting on the fence, riding the rails, seeing what happens."

Congrats, who is 3 for 6 lifetime, is a son of A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Praise, who is a half-sister to Eastern Echo, Blare of Trumpets, Roar, and Yell. McGaughey has high hopes for Congrats and worries about sending him to the wolves too soon.

"I think this is a pretty nice horse, and I'd hate to mess him up too early," McGaughey said.

During fires King's Bishop bullet

During, the Swaps winner who finished last in the Jim Dandy, worked five furlongs in 58.56 seconds Saturday, the fastest of 50 works at the distance. During is expected to make his next start in Saturday's Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes on the Travers undercard.

"He was supposed to be a real lazy works horse, [but] wasn't this morning," said exercise rider Simon Harris. "He broke sharp and was sharp the whole way."

A solid field is expected for the King's Bishop, including Eye of the Tiger, Ghostzapper, Posse, Scrimshaw, Trust N Luck, Valid Video, and Zavata.

Ghostzapper, a winner of two straight allowance races, worked five furlongs in 1:01.27. Halo Homewrecker, the Bay Shore winner, covered the same distance in 1:00.12.

* Haskell winner Peace Rules turned in arguably the most impressive workout of the morning, covering five furlongs in 59.76 seconds under a hold from Edgar Prado. Officially, he was credited with a half-mile move in 47.22 seconds.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson