Empire Maker to sit out Preakness
The final decision is in -- Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker will skip the Preakness next week and return for the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
After several days of hedging, trainer Bobby Frankel said owner Juddmonte Farms made the final call to keep the beaten Derby favorite out of the second leg of the Triple Crown.
"They don't want to run him back in two weeks,'' Frankel said Thursday from Hollywood Park. "And that makes sense. It's a long year, and we've still got the Belmont and the Travers.''
Frankel will still try to beat Derby winner Funny Cide in the Preakness with either Peace Rules, third in the Derby, or rising star Midas Eyes, winner of the Derby Trial.
"One of them will run,'' the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Frankel will be in New York this weekend to see his horses and make a decision. Frankel's horses were shipped to Belmont Park after the Derby.
Both Peace Rules and Midas Eyes are owned by Edmund Gann.
Without Empire Maker, the Preakness field currently stands at six, which would be the smallest since 1979 when Spectacular Bid won in a five-horse field.
Besides Funny Cide and either Peace Rules or Midas Eyes, the other Preakness runners are Scrimshaw, Indian Express, Senor Swinger and Midway Road.
Empire Maker was the top 3-year-old entering the Derby off victories in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial. With regal breeding and a Hall of Famer trainer and jockey -- Jerry Bailey -- Empire Maker entered Derby week as the 6-5 favorite.
But a bruised right front foot forced him to miss a day of training, and bettors made him the 5-2 choice on Derby day.
Empire Maker moved into contention at the top of the stretch but could not catch Funny Cide. The gelding overtook Peace Rules and then widened his lead over Empire Maker and won by 1 3/4 lengths, becoming the first New York-bred to win the Derby as well as the first gelding in 74 years to win.
Frankel, still looking for his first win in a Triple Crown race, won't be hurting for talent next Saturday at Pimlico. Peace Rules won the Louisiana Derby -- beating Funny Cide -- and the Blue Grass before the Kentucky Derby.
Midas Eyes won the Derby Trial on April 26 by 2½ lengths and has three victories in four starts.