05/09/2003 11:00PM

Investigation puts Empire Maker in mix

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The field for Saturday's Preakness Stakes was in flux following news that the Kentucky stewards have initiated an investigation into whether jockey Jose Santos had something in addition to his whip in his right hand during the running of the May 3 Kentucky Derby, which he won aboard Funny Cide.

The three Kentucky stewards were scheduled to meet with Santos and his attorney, Karen Murphy, Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

The news of the investigation sparked renewed interest in the Preakness from trainer Bobby Frankel with beaten Derby favorite Empire Maker, who finished second in the race. Frankel had previously declared Empire Maker out of the Preakness. Frankel apparently was under the assumption that should the stewards disqualify Funny Cide, Empire Maker would have a chance at the Triple Crown.

Frankel did not return phone messages seeking comment, but Lou Raffetto, the chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said Frankel told him he was bringing Empire Maker.

"I talked to Bobby Frankel this morning and he told me in light of the events that he was probably going to bring Empire Maker and not the other horse," Raffetto said, referring to Peace Rules.

Before the news that Frankel was re-thinking his plans with Empire Maker, the connections of four other horses said they would run in the Preakness. Alysweep, the Gotham winner and Withers runner-up; Kissin Saint, the third-place finisher in the Wood Memorial; New York Hero, the Lane's End Stakes winner; and Champali, second in the Derby Trial, are all being pointed to the Preakness.

Already confirmed for the race are Funny Cide, Cherokee's Boy, Indian Express, Scrimshaw, and Senor Swinger.

The four newcomers all would be longshots in the race.

Alysweep won the Gotham Stakes in front-running fashion, but finished a distant seventh behind Ten Most Wanted in the Illinois Derby. He bounced back with a solid second-place finish in the Withers Stakes, beaten a neck by Spite the Devil.

Trainer Pat Reynolds was initially thinking of running Alysweep in either the Riva Ridge Stakes at Belmont on June 7 or the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park on June 8. But Reynolds has been impressed with the way the colt has trained since the Withers and his owners, Michael Dubb and Mark Doneson, want to run.

"He came out of the Withers good," Reynolds said. "I don't think we really fired when we went to Illinois. Whether it was the shipping or the track surface, I don't know. You'd rather go someplace where you're 3-1 in the program, but anything can happen. This is horseracing."

Jorge Chavez will ride.

Champali, who won the Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park and most recently finished second in the Derby Trial, was being pointed to the Sir Barton Stakes on the Pimlico undercard. But, his connections now want to run in the Preakness, run at 1 3/16 miles.

"My people want to run so we're going to go," said trainer Greg Foley. "The distance is probably a question mark, but I think he'll get the distance. His style of running fits up there [at Pimlico]. He's an athletic horse."

Foley was hoping to get Jerry Bailey to ride Champali, but he would not be available if Empire Maker were to run. Edgar Prado could be available if Frankel does not run Peace Rules.

After winning the Lane's End Stakes, New York Hero has run two disappointing efforts, finishing a well-beaten fourth in the Wood and fifth in the Withers. Trainer Jennifer Pedersen said that New York Hero was not ridden properly in the Withers, and he's done well since the race. "We are definitely thinking about it," Pedersen said of the Preakness. "I wasn't happy with his Withers . . . I wanted him to rate and make one run."

Pedersen said she hopes to have Javier Castellano ride.

Trainer Lisa Lewis said Kissin Saint would run in the Preakness provided he worked well Sunday at Belmont Park. Lewis indicated that the defection of Empire Maker was a factor in the decision, and she believes this may be the best time to meet Funny Cide and Peace Rules.

"Why not do it when they're on a two-week rest?" Lewis said. "The horse has been really doing well and that plays into it too. Maybe now is the time to take a shot."

Lewis also said that Kissin Saint's late-running style may fit well into the Preakness, which is shaping up with a speed-laden field.

"Its looks like a race full of speed," Lewis said.

* Funny Cide schooled in the Belmont paddock before the third race in front of an appreciative New York crowd, which applauded him as he walked through the paddock. About the only thing he did wrong was kick a saddling stall wall twice with his left hind foot.

"Horses kick when they get nervous and the stall was in the way," trainer Barclay Tagg said.

Tagg remained noncommittal on when Funny Cide was to ship to Baltimore, but he did not rule out the possibility of shipping Friday night and arriving Saturday morning, the day of the race.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman