Updated on 09/17/2011 11:06AM

Empire Maker would like wet track for Jim Dandy

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Trainer Bobby Frankel says Empire Maker would prefer a wet track at Saratoga for the Jim Dandy.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Rain was falling steadily over the Saratoga backstretch Friday morning, but the wet weather did not dampen the spirits of trainer Bobby Frankel, who will send out Empire Maker as the overwhelming favorite in Sunday's $500,000 .

"I'd rather have a wet racetrack with this horse," Frankel said. "He's already won on it twice."

Wet or dry, Empire Maker stands out over his six rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy. A son of Unbridled, Empire Maker will attempt to duplicate the feat of stablemate Medaglia d'Oro, who swept the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers here last summer. If he does, Frankel said he thinks it would be enough to sew up a division title for Empire Maker.

"If he can win the Jim Dandy and Travers, he's the 3-year-old champion," Frankel said. "It's as simple as that."

Empire Maker has won three of his four starts since being equipped with blinkers for the first time this winter. Two of those three wins have come at the expense of his principal rival for a division title, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.

Empire Maker defeated Funny Cide on a muddy track in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and again over a sloppy course in the Belmont Stakes. Funny Cide rebounded from the loss in the Wood with a 1 3/4-length victory in the Kentucky Derby.

"It looks like the Jim Dandy is going to set up for him [Empire Maker] pretty well," said Frankel. "There's plenty of speed in the race and he should have a good target to run at. The only negative is that he's got to give everybody a lot of weight."

The Jim Dandy is run under allowance conditions. Empire Maker will carry 123 pounds as the only Grade 1 winner in the field, conceding from two to eight pounds to the six other 3-year-olds in the lineup. Regular rider Jerry Bailey will be aboard.

Even though the Jim Dandy appears to be Empire Maker's race to lose, Frankel says he never considers the outcome of any race a foregone conclusion. "I get nervous even if they look like laydowns," he said. "They still have to go in the gate, break, and run the race."

Strong Hope and Nacheezmo, first and second, respectively, in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes, head Empire Maker's competition, which also includes Tafaseel, During, Congrats, and Awesome Time.

Friday's rains helped trainer James H. Bond decide to enter and likely start Nacheezmo in the Jim Dandy. Nacheezmo registered 13- and seven-length allowance victories over wet tracks earlier this year. And like Empire Maker, he too should benefit from a contested pace.

Nacheezmo rallied from more than a dozen lengths off the lead to finish a neck behind Strong Hope in the Dwyer. Strong Hope got loose on the lead in the Dwyer but figures to receive early pressure Sunday from During and Tafaseel. He'll also be going two turns and nine furlongs for the first time in his career.

During set the pace then came again after being headed in early stretch to outgame Ten Most Wanted and Eye of the Tiger for his most important victory in the Grade 2 Swaps.

"He's on top of his game right now," said trainer Bob Baffert. "I want to see what I've got with him and how he fares against these horses."

Tafaseel is coming off a pair of one-sided allowance victories and, like Baffert, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is looking to see where he stands with his improving 3-year-old.

"Obviously, it's a big jump going from a first-level allowance to the Jim Dandy, but it's time to step up and see where we stand," McLaughin said.

Jim Dandy Stakes - The field

Purse: $500,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 2

PP HORSE JOCKEY WT. ODDS
1 Strong Hope J. Velazquez 121 4-1
2 Tafaseel R. Migliore 115 6-1
3 Awesome Time E. Coa 119 15-1
4 During P. Day 121 12-1
5 Congrats M. Luzzi 115 20-1
6 Empire Maker J. Bailey 123 4-5
7 Nacheezmo J. Chavez 115 6-1

* Odds by Brian Pochman

* Television: Sunday, 5-6 p.m. (Eastern) ESPN2