Wood Next for Frankel Contender

After sleeping on Empire Maker's powerful 9 3/4-length win in the Florida Derby, trainer Bobby Frankel said Sunday that the colt would use the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct as his final prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Frankel had said Saturday, shortly after the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, that Empire Maker wouldn't run again until the Kentucky Derby on May 3. The Wood, to be run April 12, had fallen out of favor as a Derby prep before Fusaichi Pegasus and Monarchos used it as a springboard to victory at Churchill Downs in 2000 and '01.

Frankel didn't learn until Sunday how difficult it has been historically for lightly raced horses to win the Derby. Had Empire Maker skipped the Wood, he would have gone to Louisville with only four career starts.

"I didn't want to buck that trend," Frankel said. "I thought it over and decided not to deviate from the schedule I had laid out before we won Saturday. If Empire Maker went into the Derby too fresh and ran too good, he might not be around for the rest of the Triple Crown."

Frankel considers Peace Rules, his Louisiana Derby winner, less of a contender for the Kentucky Derby and said that Midas Eyes, winner of Saturday's Swale Stakes here in record time, wouldn't be pointed to the Derby. Somewhat reluctantly, Frankel will run Ed and Bernice Gann's Peace Rules in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on the same day as the Wood.

-- Bill Christine

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