- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2004

BALTIMORE — The Cliff’s Edge appears doubtful for tomorrow’s 129th Preakness Stakes after an abscess in his right front hoof worsened.

Trainer Nick Zito said the fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher could enter if the abscess improved by this morning. Otherwise, the colt will be scratched.

“It’s got to be 100 percent all right,” Zito said. “We’ll do what’s right for the horse. We just want to get him back OK.”

A stone bruise suffered when The Cliff’s Edge lost both front shoes in the Derby on May1 probably caused the injury. However, it wasn’t obvious until Wednesday, when the colt left his stall appearing sore.

Rated 8-1, The Cliff’s Edge would be a serious contender if a fast early pace compromises Derby winner Smarty Jones’ chances. The Cliff’s Edge won the Blue Grass Stakes on April10 with a late bid.

Zito still would have Sir Shackleton in his bid for a second Preakness title. The Derby Trial winner has won three straight against modest competition.

“He’s an improving horse, and we’ll find out what we have in the Preakness,” Zito said.

Slots alive?

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich won’t abandon his bill for slots at racetracks to help the industry even though the measure twice has failed to gain passage. Ehrlich told the Alibi Breakfast crowd a special summer or fall legislative session was possible.

“This industry is at a crossroads, and we all know it,” Ehrlich said. “The value of horse racing used to be self-evident in this state. To some opinion makers, that’s no longer the case. This is a serious call to arms to save this industry … to save this way of life for future generations.”

Pennsylvania soon may join Delaware and West Virginia with slot machines, which have diminished Maryland’s longtime role as the leader of Middle Atlantic racing. Ehrlich couldn’t resist a jab at a border state.

“Sometimes I just like to go to Delaware to visit my citizens and my money,” he said. “We need to pass the bill — we all know it.”

Down the stretch

Funny Cide is expected to arrive hours before today’s $500,000 Pimlico Special. The gelding will be vanned from New York, but trainer Barclay Tagg might withdraw Funny Cide because the favorite dislikes hot weather. … Smarty Jones trainer John Servis chose post No. 7 out of superstition. The colt was No. 7 in two earlier races and has won seven straight. Told he would break from post No. 6 if The Cliff’s Edge withdraws, Servis replied, “We’ll still be Number 7 [ in the program].” …

Smarty Jones was compared to “Rocky” by one questioner. Said Servis: “Maybe if we get lucky, we’ll run him up the steps [of the Philadelphia Museum of Art].” … Lion Heart trainer Patrick Biancone isn’t one of the naysayers about Pimlico’s modest backstretch conditions, saying, “Lion Heart’s stall is like a five-star hotel.” … Jockey Gary Stevens will fly from France to ride Rock Hard Ten and then immediately return. … Servis will throw out the first pitch tonight at Camden Yards and will warn whoever starts at catcher for the O’s “to expect some heat.” … Trainer King Leatherbury received the Special Award of Merit from the Maryland Jockey Club.

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