Results mixed for Zito's Derby hopefuls

`Cliff's Edge,' Eurosilver finish third, second in weekend prep events

Horse Racing

March 15, 2004|By Dave Joseph | Dave Joseph,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

Trainer Nick Zito used the word "bittersweet" yesterday morning when describing the previous day's performances of his Kentucky Derby contenders Eurosilver and The Cliff's Edge at Gulfstream Park.

Racing in the 1 1/8 -mile Florida Derby, The Cliff's Edge finished an erratic third behind race winner Friends Lake. Meanwhile, in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes, Eurosilver fell a head short of catching winner Wynn Dot Comma.

"It was a good day," Zito said. "But it could have been better."

Eurosilver, a son of Unbridled's Song who has topped several Kentucky Derby polls off his October victory in the Lane's End Futurity at Keeneland, finished strongly under jockey Javier Castellano and will now race at Keeneland on April 10 in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Eurosilver is the third rated horse in this week's Triple Crown Ratings.

"I loved what we saw except he didn't win," Zito said. "He galloped out beautifully. He loved Keeneland last fall and, hopefully, that will be the case again."

Zito was hoping for a cleaner trip for The Cliff's Edge, who was bothered around the first turn and didn't get off a tiring rail down the stretch until inside the 16th pole.

"I was more upset about Cliff not winning," Zito said. "But he proved his point. He's a wonderful horse, game. Obviously, he has a ticket. He's definitely going to the Kentucky Derby."

Zito has one more Derby contender in Champagne Stakes winner Birdstone, a son of Grindstone who runs Saturday in the 1 1/8 -mile Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. Birdstone received first-place votes from all five handicappers participating in the Triple Crown Ratings. Now, seven weeks out from the Kentucky Derby, Zito likes where he stands.

"I'm happy," he said. "My disappointment would be if all three aren't in the gate [for the Derby]. As long as I can get all three in the gate, that would be the best-case scenario."

Florida Derby winner Friends Lake, a well-bred son of AP Indy out of the multiple Grade I winning mare Antespend, will likely not race again before the May 1 Derby, according to trainer John Kimmel. If the New York-bred colt should win the Derby, he would be the first horse since Needles in 1956 to not have raced in April. By virtue of his win Saturday, Birdstone was picked the second favorite in the ratings.

"He shouldn't have any trouble staying fit over the next eight weeks, and I think the whole idea is to have a fresh horse for the Derby," Kimmel said.

Friends Lake wasn't the only new shooter to make a new for himself over the weekend. Sunday afternoon at Santa Anita Park, Preachinatthebar lasted by a nose to win the 1 1/8 -mile San Felipe Stakes over St. Averil. Preachinatthebar is trained by Bob Baffert, who saddled Wimbledon to victory March 7 in the Louisiana Derby.

Preachinatthebar is by Silver Charm, whom Baffert trained to win the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. And Dogwood Stable's Limehouse, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Pat Day, won yesterday's Tampa Bay Derby.

The man who walked away with little to show over the weekend was trainer Richard Violette, who watched Read the Footnotes bounce from his gut-wrenching victory Feb. 14 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes to finish fourth in the Florida Derby, and Swingforthefences finish a disappointing third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

At Santa Anita Park, Adoration took the lead in the stretch and inched clear to win the $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap for fillies and mares 4 years and older.

Adoration spent most of the race comfortably sitting in back of pace-setting Star Parade, then was steered to the outside by jockey Mike Smith and urged on to seize command. Star Parade couldn't match Adoration's charge but hung on gamely for second over Bare Necessities.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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