04/13/2003 11:00PM

Frankel's one-two punch Derby-ready

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - In 1948, Plain Ben Jones of Calumet Farm started an entry in the Kentucky Derby. Citation, ridden by Eddie Arcaro, was coming off a victory in the Derby Trial four days earlier, while stablemate Coaltown, ridden by Newbold Leroy Pierson, was an impressive winner of Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes nine days earlier.

In the intervening 55 years, no trainer has had an entry in the Derby to compare with the twosome in the devil's-red-and-blue colors that finished one-two when they ran for the roses. That is until now, for in the wake of Saturday's racing across the country, trainer Bobby Frankel's dynamic duo of Empire Maker, winner of the Wood Memorial, and Peace Rules, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, will go postward in the Derby.

Empire Maker races for Juddmonte Farms, while Peace Rules is owned by Edmund Gann. Judging from their weekend achievements, they merit the highest consideration.

Empire Maker, in the Wood Memorial, confirmed his brilliant form of the Florida Derby. He raced comfortably off the pace under Jerry Bailey on a muddy track that did not appear to faze him. New York Hero, upset winner of the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, set the pace, with Funny Cide and Empire Maker following in that order.

Funny Cide and Empire Maker moved on the turn, raced past New York Hero, and dueled briefly until the favorite, on his own, went on to score by a half-length. His time of 1:48.70 for the nine furlongs was appropriate for track conditions.

"Empire Maker did what he had to do; he did what Bailey permitted," Frankel said from California Monday morning, after escorting Empire Maker to Louisville on Sunday. "It was the kind of prep race we were seeking, one that didn't take too much out of him. He's raced five times in all, three times this year, and is a fresh horse. He'll probably have one work at Churchill Downs, supplemented by daily gallops and an occasional open gallop."

Laz Barrera used open gallops effectively to prepare Bold Forbes for the 1976 Kentucky Derby. Bold Forbes did not have a single formal work in Louisville and some observers were disturbed. Barrera, seeing how much Bold Forbes put into his open gallops, knew the colt would be ready, and he was.

Peace Rules, who has run eight times in all but only twice this year, is also a fresh horse as he comes to the Derby. A Jules colt who has won his last four starts, Peace Rules won the Blue Grass by 3 1/2 lengths after leading through fractions of 23.40 seconds for the quarter, 47.10 for the half-mile, and 1:11.33 for six furlongs.

His time of 1:51.73 was the slowest Blue Grass in 15 years but the track was off as a result of rain earlier in the week and times were moderate throughout the program. Brancusi, sent off at 8-1 by the 27,624 on hand in delightful weather, was second throughout in an effort that pleased trainer Patrick Louis Biancone.

Frankel, who watched the Blue Grass on television from Aqueduct, was also well satisfied with Peace Rules, and he feels there is room for improvement.

Frankel also has Peace Rules scheduled for one work at Churchill Downs before the Derby. The trainer believes he is in good position as the classic season opens but is aware of the many pitfalls along the Derby Trail and will not be counting chickens for three weeks.