Eddington serves notice with rally for third place

Horse shows he belongs after missing Derby cut, could run in Belmont

Preakness Stakes

May 16, 2004|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

When finally given a chance, Eddington showed he deserved to run in yesterday's Preakness, making a strong rally to finish third behind winner Smarty Jones and runner-up Rock Hard Ten.

Two weeks ago, this Kentucky-bred horse missed by one the cut for the Kentucky Derby. His earnings - $149,560 heading into the Preakness - were 21st out of a 20-horse field.

"He got beat by a nose in a prep race," said trainer Mark Hennig, referring to the Wood Memorial in New York, where Eddington finished third on April 10, one place behind where he needed to be. "If so, we would have had the earnings."

Being denied a Derby spot was part of the motivation for entering the Preakness.

"This was the next logical step," Hennig said. "We felt we deserved a chance."

Yesterday's finish and its $200,000 prize knocked down a few barriers for the horse, which might challenge Smarty Jones in the June 5 Belmont Stakes.

While Smarty Jones' winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness brings greater exposure for horse racing, it also raises the bar for competitors like Eddington, who is owned by Peter Willmott's Willmott Stables.

"It's always good to have that kind of possibility [of a Triple Crown winner] for the sport," Hennig said, "but it's one that we intend to make sure doesn't happen."

Though Eddington is 6 inches taller than most thoroughbreds, the trainer said the horse is less polished than most. That brought the possibility that not everything about his performance would be positive, and that's pretty much what happened yesterday.

The horse languished in the pack for much of the race, five lengths behind Smarty Jones as the group approached the stretch. The position was an unpleasant surprise for jockey Jerry Bailey, winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation's top jockey for the past four years. He believed that Eddington was in good shape on the backstretch.

"I was where I wanted to be and everything seemed to be going great, then my horse quit in the middle of the race," said Bailey, who was aboard Eddington for the fifth time. "Then in the stretch, he decided to run again and we got third. He's going to have to learn how to run a little better than that."

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