Trainer Nick Zito came to town for the Preakness Stakes hoping to find redemption for his top 3-year-old, The Cliff's Edge, after the colt lost two shoes in the slop and finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Now the horse might not be able to run.
Zito discovered The Cliff's Edge "stiff all over" Wednesday morning when he went to his stall to prepare the multiple graded stakes-winning colt for a gallop.
The trainer, who said he found a "pulsation" in The Cliff's Edge's right front hoof, nervously had the horse walked in the stakes barn shed row for 30 minutes, then put exercise rider Maxine Correa on his back for another 45 minutes of walking before sending him to the track.
The Cliff's Edge, who overcame Derby runner-up Lion Heart to win the Blue Grass Stakes, galloped around and Zito entered him in the Preakness by the 11:30 a.m. deadline. But if the horse doesn't improve, Zito said, he will be scratched.
"He looked all right on the track, but he was walking gingerly when he came back to the barn," Zito said. "Maybe everything related to the shoes has caught up to him.
"We're hoping it's a bruise or a piece of gravel that will come out. If not, we'll have to wait. This is racing. That's the way it is."
The opening-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby, The Cliff's Edge opened at 8-1 Wednesday for Saturday's Preakness.
Elliott on the Hot Seat
Trouble continues to dog Stewart Elliott, rider of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones. The 39-year-old jockey, who failed to disclose a guilty plea to an assault charge in 2001 on his application to ride at Churchill Downs, was reported in the Asbury Park Press on Wednesday to have pleaded guilty to simple assault and criminal mischief in two other incidents that year in West Belmar, N.J.
The Maryland Racing Commission stewards, however, reiterated the incidents will not keep Elliott from riding in the Preakness.
"There is nothing that would stop him from riding in Maryland," said steward John Burke. "He'll stop by and see us when he comes here, but there is nothing that will preclude him from riding."
Burke had a copy of the New Jersey law that stated the offenses were to be classified as "petty . . . convictions of such offenses shall not give rise to any disability or legal disadvantage based on conviction of a crime."
Burke said Elliott was advised by his attorney that he did not have to list the incidents on his applications to ride.
Elliott will meet with the Maryland stewards on Friday.
In Search of Special Purse
When it became clear the state legislature would not pass a slot machine bill this spring that would aide the struggling Maryland racing industry, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association vowed the purse account that funds daily racing would not be tapped for the historic Grade I $500,000 Pimlico Special, set to run Friday and featuring last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.
Pimlico Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto told the Maryland Racing Commission the race would go on and that the Maryland Jockey Club would find a way to fund the race.
Although the Special will go off, Raffetto declined Wednesday to say where the money will come from.
"It's not coming out of the purse account," Raffetto said. "We're not working on a way to fund this. We can pay the purse."