Updated on 09/17/2011 10:23AM

He's bruised, but still a go

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Bobby Frankel (top, with back turned) tells the assembled media he's

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Empire Maker is suffering from a bruise to his right front foot that needed attention Tuesday morning from both a veterinarian and a farrier, but trainer Bobby Frankel believed the injury would not prevent Empire Maker from running in the 129th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Still, the timing is not ideal. Foot bruises can clear up quickly, but can prove problematic if they linger or develop into something more serious. That is why Frankel and his staff jumped on the problem Tuesday after Empire Maker jogged one mile around the track.

"We're not panicking," said Frankel, whose mood lightened from concern to playful as the morning wore on. "Things like this happen every day. It just gets more attention because it's the Derby. Tomorrow, he'll be perfect. Put it this way - if he's not right, he's not going to run."

Empire Maker is expected to be a heavy favorite in the Derby, and his presence has served to keep the probable field below the maximum of 20. Entries were due to be taken on Wednesday morning, with post positions to be selected later Wednesday on a one-hour ESPN telecast set to begin at 5 p.m.

The probable field solidified on Tuesday because of two defections as well as two commitments to run from trainers who had previously listed their horses as possible.

Kafwain was taken out of the race with a soft-tissue injury - most likely a strained check ligament just below the knee in his right front leg - that was discovered after he worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds in the company of his Bob Baffert-trained stablemate, Indian Express.

In addition, Baffert said Senor Swinger would definitely run in Friday's Crown Royal American Turf, and would not be entered in the Derby.

Eye of the Tiger and Lone Star Sky, both described by their trainers as possible earlier in the week, are both going to be entered. Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of Eye of the Tiger, made his decision late Tuesday morning. Tom Amoss, the trainer of Lone Star Sky, decided to run after Lone Star Sky worked five furlongs in 1:00.60. Calvin Borel was aboard Lone Star Sky for the workout, but since Borel already committed to ride longshot Ten Cents a Shine, Shane Sellers has secured the mount on Lone Star Sky.

As of Tuesday, 17 horses were expected to be entered in the Derby. They are Atswhatimtalknbout (David Flores the rider), Brancusi (Tony Farina), Buddy Gil (Gary Stevens), Domestic Dispute (Alex Solis), Empire Maker (Jerry Bailey), Eye of the Tiger (Eibar Coa), Funny Cide (Jose Santos), Indian Express (Tyler Baze), Lone Star Sky (Sellers), Offlee Wild (Robby Albarado), Outta Here (Kent Desormeaux), Peace Rules (Edgar Prado), Scrimshaw (Cornelio Velasquez), Sir Cherokee (Terry Thompson), Supah Blitz (Rosemary Homeister Jr.), Ten Cents a Shine (Borel), and Ten Most Wanted (Pat Day).

If more than 20 horses are entered, the field is determined based on earnings in graded stakes. At this point, it appears the earnings rule will not have to be invoked. The status of Empire Maker, though, might embolden some fence-sitters to enter at the last second.

Empire Maker and stablemate Peace Rules both jogged, as scheduled, on Tuesday morning. But Empire Maker "started off a little stiff this morning," Frankel said, so he had Dr. Ken Reed, a local veterinarian, examine Empire Maker when he returned to the barn. Empire Maker was examined with a hoof-tester, which is designed to pinpoint the exact location of a foot problem.

Frankel initially said Empire Maker would have his regularly scheduled gallop on Wednesday, but later said Reed had recommended Empire Maker be confined to walking for one day.

Steve Norman, a local farrier, also examined Empire Maker. Frankel said Norman filed away a portion of Empire Maker's right front horseshoe to "take the pressure off" the injured area. "He files down the end of the shoe, bends it over, and knocks it off," Frankel said.

Norman worked on Unbridled's Song, who had far more serious foot problems before running fifth as the favorite in the 1996 Derby. Unbridled's Song needed to run in bar shoes. Frankel said Empire Maker's right front shoe would not need to be removed to treat the problem. He said Empire Maker was last shod before the Wood Memorial, and was not due to be shod again until after the Derby.

Empire Maker was to have his foot soaked in a tub of hot water and Epsom salts in an attempt to draw out the bruise, Frankel said.

Frankel said he believes Empire Maker might have gotten the bruise initially when winning the Wood Memorial nearly three weeks ago at Aqueduct. "He ran on a sealed racetrack that day," Frankel said.

The major concern with Empire Maker is that the injury not worsen. If Empire Maker misses a day or two of training, it is not crucial, so long as the foot heals. Because of wet weather, Empire Maker only jogged for four days leading up to the Wood Memorial, yet he won despite that abbreviated training schedule.

In other Derby developments Tuesday:

- Kafwain's injury was noticed when he started walking gingerly while cooling out following his workout. "We're not sure what's wrong with him. We think it's the check ligament," said Richard Mulhall, the president of The Thoroughbred Corp., which owns Kafwain. "It looks like there is a little filling there." Baffert said X-rays would be taken. Baffert and The Thoroughbred Corp. won last year's Derby with War Emblem.

- Supah Blitz, who arrived here Sunday, was ridden vigorously while working a half-mile in 46.80 seconds, the fastest time of 42 at the distance. Homeister was aboard.

- Also given an aggressive workout was Offlee Wild, who worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds with Albarado. His time was the fastest of 25 at the distance.

- Sir Cherokee came over from the nearby Trackside training center and worked an effortless five furlongs in 1:00.60 with Thompson. He went back to Trackside after the work, and will not return to Churchill until race day.

- At Belmont Park, Funny Cide zipped five furlongs in 58.40 seconds with assistant trainer Robin Smullen aboard. The time was the fastest of 24 at the distance. Funny Cide was scheduled to be flown to Kentucky on Wednesday.

- Brancusi, who has been training 72 miles away at Keeneland, will travel by van to Churchill on Thursday afternoon, trainer Patrick Biancone said.

- The long-range forecast from the National Weather Service calls for partly cloudy skies and a high of 66 degrees on Saturday. It was warm and humid here on Tuesday, and thunderstorms, combined with the temperature around 80, are forecast through Friday. The weather is supposed to break Friday afternoon, leaving mild temperatures for the Derby.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen, David Grening, and Marty McGee.