02/07/2003 1:00AM

Man Among Men pulls upset in Sham


ARCADIA, Calif. - Man Among Men, making his stakes debut on dirt, upset the heavily favored Empire Maker in Friday's $81,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.

Man Among Men had an ideal trip under Alex Solis. Third for the first six furlongs, Man Among Men rallied past fading pacesetters Truckle Feature and Ten Most Wanted in early stretch and finished a length in front of Empire Maker.

Man Among Men ($20.20) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.39.

"I knew he could run all day," trainer Gary Mandella said. "It was a matter of putting him in with other 3-year-olds and seeing if he was good enough. I was concerned between the seven-eighths pole and the five-eighths pole. You worry that he was a little too sharp. I was worried I cranked him with a little too much speed."

Empire Maker, third in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 29, closed from last on the backstretch to reach contention in early stretch. Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Empire Maker rallied along the inside in the stretch but could not reach the winner.

"I still like him, but he's still an 'a other than'," Bailey said, referring to Empire Maker's allowance conditions. "He just needed the run."

Spensive, the winner of the minor Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in December, finished third, and was followed by Ten Most Wanted, Pine for Java, Truckle Feature and Storm Gulch.

Man Among Men races for R.D. Hubbard and Connie Sczesny. The winner of the Pinjara Stakes on turf at Santa Anita in October, he was making his first start since finishing fourth as the favorite in the Generous Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park in November.

"After the Generous we were pretty disappointed," Mandella said.

Mandella said the San Felipe Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on March 16 will be considered along with the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on March 9.