Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner-up Lion Heart made his first appearance on the Pimlico track Thursday morning, and if looks mean anything, the colt is ready for a peak performance in Saturday's Preakness Stakes gr. I).The son of Tale of the Cat has never looked better. His chestnut coat has a radiant shine to it, his muscle tone is excellent, and he looks like a finely chiseled statue.
Whether this equates to him turning the tables on Smarty Jones is anyone's guess, but it wouldn't be surprising at all to see him run the race of his life.Trainer Patrick Biancone is quietly confident, and when asked what difference he sees in the Preakness compared to the Derby, he smiled as said coyly, "The result."Breaking from the rail, Lion Heart likely will be on the lead again, and it will be interesting to see who tries to tackle him first. There's a good chance whoever it is will cook their own horse and possibly set it up for someone else.When opposing jockeys take one look at Lion Heart before the race they may get discouraged, not wanting to sacrifice their own horse, and decide to wait for someone else to do the dirty work. The unknown pace factor will be Sir Shackleton, who has done nothing wrong in his last three starts, and is improving with each race. Trainer Nick Zito, who is giving up hope of making the race with The Cliff's Edge, says the Preakness hopefully will tell them where they are with this colt. Taking on Lion Heart early certainly will not achieve that.The horse who could put the most pressure on him is Rock Hard Ten, who is fresh, to say the least, with only three career starts and none in the past six weeks. With Gary Stevens coming in from France to ride him, you know he won't be too far off the pace, and there is little doubt, coming off the layoff, this big bruiser will be a bear out there.Smarty Jones was out at 5:45 this morning in order to beat the heat. Trainer John Servis galloped him with the pony, fought off the swarms of gnats that are so common on humid days at Pimlico, and headed back to the barn as quickly as possible. The gnats were so bad, they bit Imperialism inside his ear, and as the colt was out grazing later in the morning, he was scratching his ear with his hind foot like a big dog. Trainer Kristin Mulhall finally helped him out by scratching it for him.Imperialism continues to look super. He has really held his flesh well, is galloping into the bit, and is one happy horse...other than his gnat bites.It's starting to look like it will take a huge effort to change the order of the Kentucky Derby finish. The one thing Stewart Elliott on Smarty Jones will have to avoid is getting caught in a Rock Hard Ten--Eddington sandwich behind Lion Heart. One of these two 17-hand horses is intimidating enough, but to have both on either side of you will not be a pleasant experience. If The Cliff's Edge is forced to miss the race, Imperialism and Little Matth Man will be the recipients of any major slugfests on or near the lead, so their connections are hoping to see some heavy-duty action up there.Rock Hard Ten and Imperialism went out at about 11 a.m. this morning to school on the turf course, where they'll be saddled on Saturday. Both behaved beautifully, checking out the new sights and sounds all around them. Rock Hard Ten, who can act up at times, was a perfect gentleman and made for a quite a sight standing there with his ears pricked, showing off that massive frame. You could really appreciate the size of this guy watching him walking next to Imperialism, who was dwarfed by the towering son of Kris S..Linda Albert, trainer of Maryland's hope, Water Cannon, said she's looking to van to Pimlico Saturday as late as possible.One horse not getting much attention is Arkansas Derby runner-up Borrego. What this handsome son of El Prado has going for him is his rate of development. He probably wont hit his peak until next month, but this most likely is a much a more physically and mentally advanced colt than the one who finished a solid second to Smarty Jones at Oaklawn. He did make a good move on the far turn in the Derby, but the wet, sticky track got to him nearing the head of the stretch and he backed out of it to finish 10th. A big rebound effort certainly is not of the question.