05/24/2003 11:00PM

Turf work for Empire Maker instead of Jersey Derby


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel went to plan C Sunday morning, electing to work Belmont Stakes contender Empire Maker over a yielding Belmont turf course rather than ship him to Monmouth Park for Monday's Jersey Derby.

On Saturday, Frankel had entered Empire Maker in Monday's Jersey Derby because he did not want to work him over a sloppy Belmont main track. The Jersey Derby, originally scheduled to be run at 1 1/16 miles on turf, was moved to the dirt at the same distance.

Late Saturday afternoon, New York Racing Association racing secretary Mike Lakow proposed the idea of opening the turf course for Empire Maker and others provided the ground was suitable. Despite dreary gray skies, no precipitation fell at Belmont from mid-day Saturday to Sunday morning. Belmont was scheduled to race on the turf Sunday afternoon.

Equipped with blinkers and with regular rider Jerry Bailey up, Empire Maker worked in company with Swale Stakes and Derby Trial winner Midas Eyes. Empire Maker broke off about two lengths behind Midas Eyes, under Javier Castellano, came through on the inside of Midas Eyes turning for home and finished strongly while completing his move about two lengths in front of Midas Eyes. Empire Maker was credited with a five-furlong move in 1:02.61 while Midas Eyes was credited with the same move in 1:03.45. Midas Eyes is being pointed to the Riva Ridge Stakes on Belmont Day.

Empire Maker got his last eighth in 11.81 seconds.

"I thought it was a very good move, but it didn't surprise me, he's got a lot of grass pedigree," Bailey said. "If they handle it well, which he did, it's easier on them and keeps them a little fitter. Soft turf will get them a little fitter than a regular dirt work."

Frankel said he told Bailey "just a nice comfortable work, don't push him." Frankel was pleased with the move.

"It was just to get some exercise in him where it's safe for him to exercise, you know," Frankel said. "First time on turf I wanted to make sure he paid attention. I'm sure the way he worked he could have worked by himself but until you do it you never know."

Frankel said he hoped to work Empire Maker six furlongs on dirt next Sunday at Belmont.

Meanwhile, Lone Star Derby winner Dynever also worked on the turf, going four furlongs in company with the mare Mariensky. Dynever, under Christophe Lorieul, broke off three lengths behind Mariensky and the two finished on even terms. Dynever was credited with a four-furlong move in 48.54 seconds while Mariensky, a candidate for next Sunday's Sheepshead Bay, went in 49.07 seconds.

Clement said working on turf "was the best alternative" to shipping to Saratoga or Monmouth Park in search of a dry dirt track.

"To look at it, it was a very good work," Clement said. "They started slow, they finished fast. He moved very well. At the quarter pole when the filly went on for 50 yards or a sixteenth of a mile at most, he was a but surprised then he leveled off and finished well."

Clement said he too would like to come back next Sunday with a dirt work for Dynever.

In other Belmont news, owner Rodney Lundock said Peter Pan third-place finisher Supervisor would "most likely" run in the Belmont Stakes. Scott Schwartz, the trainer of Peter Pan winner Go Rockin' Robin said he and his father, owner Herbert Schwartz, "were still kicking it around" whether to supplement to the Belmont at a cost of $100,000. Schwartz said a decision would most likely be made by mid-week.

As of Sunday, the list of possible Belmont starters numbered 12. They are, Atswhatimtalknbout, Best Minister, Colita, Dynever, Empire Maker, Funny Cide, Go Rockin' Robin, Midway Road, Outta Here, Scrimshaw, Supervisor, and Ten Most Wanted.