Bobbleheads and silks on display at the Alibi Breakfast.

Bobbleheads and silks on display at the Alibi Breakfast.

Barbara D. Livingston

The Cliff's Edge Decision Due Friday; Alibis Hard to Come By

The Preakness Stakes (gr. I) field remained intact as of the morning of May 13, but the status of The Cliff's Edge, who is suffering from an abscess in his right front foot, was up in the air.

Trainer Nick Zito said if the abscess pops May 13, and a veterinarian is able to treat it, the colt could compete. But he said he wouldn't make a decision until Friday, one day before the race.

During the May 13 Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico Race Course, Maxine Correa, an assistant to Zito, said the situation has been "hour by hour." She said The Cliff's Edge seemed a little sore, but that could change when the abscess is gone.

The Cliff's Edge, owned by Robert LaPenta, finished fifth in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) even though he lost two shoes. He previously won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, and is listed at 8-1 in the morning line for the Preakness, second leg of the Visa Triple Crown Challenge.

The trainer of Roy and Pat Chapman's undefeated Smarty Jones, the Kentucky Derby winner and 8-5 morning line favorite for the Preakness, offered no alibis. John Servis did say he would liked to have had another two weeks of training, and the colt could be "vulnerable," but that he's "ready to go."

Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Lion Heart, second in the Derby and never worse than second in six career starts, looked the part the morning of May 13. Trainer Patrick Biancone, when asked by emcee Chris Lincoln about his colt's chances of winning the Preakness, said: "For the only reason that I hate lose. I hate to lose weight, and I hate to lose races."

Steve Taub's Imperialism, who encountered some trouble in the Kentucky Derby but rallied for third, has worked well since his arrival in Maryland. Taub said jockey Kent Desormeaux predicted Imperialism would win the next two legs of the Triple Crown, and to that, Taub responded: "I'm not as bold as Kent."

Taub indicated the race appears wide-open if looks mean anything. "I have not seen one of these horses that did not look really good (this week)."

The Alibi Breakfast also offered the Maryland Jockey Club a chance to honor industry representatives and media. The Maryland Horse Breeders Association was recognized for 50 years of service to the Maryland horse industry. Tim Capps, executive vice president of the MJC, called the MHBA "a vital part of the sport in this state."

Other award winners were Sean Clancy (David F. Woods Memorial Award) for a story that appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred; Gary West (Old Hilltop Award) of the Dallas Morning News; Bruce Cunningham (Old Hilltop Award) of WBFF-TV; Jeff Snyder (Jerry Frutkoff Preakness Photography Award sponsored by Nikon) for a photo that appeared in The Blood-Horse; and King Leatherbury (Special Award of Merit).

Bud Delp, trainer of Spectacular Bid, was named honorary postmaster for the Preakness. Spectacular Bid won the Derby and Preakness but failed to take the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), third leg of the Triple Crown.

"Smarty Jones is very, very impressive," Delp said. "I would like to see him win the Triple Crown because it would be great for racing."

As of May 13, it appeared the weather for Preakness day would be the best in years. MJC president Joe De Francis made a point to reference the power outage of 1998, Lee Chang Ferrell jumping onto the racetrack during a race in 1999, and varying degrees of heat or cold in subsequent years.

De Francis said the programs of May 14-15 have drawn strong entries and could make for the greatest two days of racing in the 259-year history of Thoroughbred racing in Maryland.