07/08/2003 11:00PM

Empire Maker turns it down a notch


ELMONT, N.Y. - Empire Maker, winner of the Belmont Stakes, returned to the track early Wednesday morning for a relatively slow four-furlong workout over the main track at Belmont Park.

Empire Maker was timed in 51.03, breezing, in the workout, which took place at 6:15 a.m., according to trainer Bobby Frankel. The time was the fifth-slowest of the 23 works at the distance on Wednesday.

The work was noticeably slower than Empire Maker's previous two works since his Belmont win on June 7. On July 2, Empire Maker blazed five furlongs in 59.02 seconds, second-fastest of the day, and on June 24, he worked five furlongs in 58.64.

Frankel said Wednesday's work went exactly to plan. "He just went nice and easy," Frankel said. "He's been working too fast."

After Empire Maker's July 2 work, Frankel had complained that Empire Maker was "too fresh" and working too briskly, and he had said that he was considering a shorter breeze for the colt's next work.

Empire Maker is still on track for his next start, the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 3, according to Frankel.

The Jim Dandy will be a prep for Empire Maker's main goal, the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23, where he is expected to face Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.

Chiselling tops Bowling Green field

Chiselling, the winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes as a 3-year-old last year, will carry 117 pounds and is the likely starting highweight for the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on Saturday. The Bowling Green, expected to draw eight horses, will be run at 1 3/8 miles on the turf.

Among the expected entrants is State Shinto, a 7-year-old son of Pleasant Colony who will be making his second start in the United States this year after two years in Dubai under the care of Saeed bin Suroor and John Sadler. State Shinto won several listed stakes in Dubai and was competitive in group stakes there as well. He was assigned 116 pounds for the Bowling Green.

State Shinto is exiting a victory in a tough allowance race on June 25, his first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. In that race, at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, State Shinto took the lead at the top of the stretch and then battled with Revved Up to the finish line. After being briefly headed, State Shinto came back on the outside to win by a half-length while posting a strong Beyer Speed Figure of 105, the best of any horse being considered for the Bowling Green.

"It was nice for us to see him for the first time and win the race," McLaughlin said Wednesday. "It gave us a lot of confidence in him. I've never had him before, but I knew he had some Group 2, Group 3 wins, and he hadn't been on the grass for a long time. He proved he's a really nice horse."

State Shinto is not necessarily a nice horse to train, however, McLaughlin said. State Shinto has not had a published work since June 16 at Saratoga, and he has worked only four times since arriving in the country in May. He has not and will not work before the Bowling Green on Saturday, McLaughlin said.

"He's quite difficult to train," McLaughlin said. "He just trains on his own. We have to use the races to train him."

Long time between victories

State Shinto's most formidable challenger will likely be Macaw, who worked four furlongs on Wednesday just after the break on the Belmont main track for trainer Barclay Tagg. Belmont's clockers caught the horse in 49.15, breezing, but Tagg said he caught Macaw in 48.40.

Tagg said that Macaw's work "was perfect for what we wanted to do."

Macaw, who was also assigned 116 pounds, has not won since Aug. 2, 2002, when he took the listed Seabeach Handicap at Goodwood Racecourse in England. Macaw was then shipped to Tagg in New York, and since then he has started eight times, with one second-place finish and one third-place finish. Six of those eight races have been graded stakes, and Macaw has knocked heads with some tough turf stars, including Denon, Quest Star, and Man From Wicklow.

Tagg said the 11 furlongs of the Bowling Green should suit Macaw well. On paper, Macaw's best performances have come in races that are 1 1/4 miles or longer.

"He'll like the long distance," Tagg said. "At least, we think he will."

Also expected in the Bowling Green are Dawn of the Condor (114), winner of the last year's Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap; Epicentre (114); Esperence (113); Thompson Rouge (115), a recent import from France to trainer Bill Mott; and Whitmore's Conn (116).

According to Leana Willaford, the Belmont-based assistant to Mott, Thompson Rouge will ship to Belmont from Saratoga on Thursday. Thompson Rouge, a 4-year-old Irish-bred son of Machiavellian, finished second in the Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp in 2002. He also was a listed winner in France as a 3-year-old and in Italy as a 2-year-old.

The Bowling Green will be Thompson Rouge's first U.S. start.

* Willaford also said that Silver Tree, a promising 3-year-old colt for owner Peter Vegso, will skip Sunday's Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on Belmont's turf course for Saturday's $500,000 Virginia Derby on the turf at Colonial Downs.

McLaughlin said that Sharp Impact would definitely start in the Lexington. A front-runner by Siphon, Sharp Impact has never started on the grass.

Spill sends jockeys to hospital

The ninth race on Wednesday at Belmont Park, a one-mile grass race for New York-bred maidens, was marred by an ugly chain-reaction spill that sent two jockeys to the hospital, including 17-year-old apprentice rider Shannon Uske.

According to NYRA officials, Uske and another jockey in the spill, Luis Chavez, were sent to North Shore University Hospital in Manhassat, but were both conscious and moving their legs when they were loaded on to separate ambulances. Uske was complaining about abdominal pains, while Chavez was said to have a cut on his right hand. Uske was wearing a neck brace when she was loaded on the ambulance.

The other jockey, Javier Castellano, was not injured, NYRA officials said. All three horse involved in the spill eventually trotted around the track and did not appear to be injured seriously.

The spill appeared to have happened when jockey Luis Chavez moved Midnight Summit, the 6 horse, toward the hedge at the top of the stretch. Midnight Summit clipped heels with Affliction, who was fading, and immediately went to the turf. Chavez was sent over the top of the horse.

Valatie, who was running directly behind Midnight Summit, collided with the fallen horse and went to the ground, throwing Castellano. As the horse flipped to its back, A. P. Junior collided with him, sending Uske to the ground.