Tapit, `Cliff's Edge' out of Belmont lineup

Ailments cost contenders chance to derail `Smarty'

Horse Racing

May 30, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The Maryland colt Tapit, who would have been one of the primary challengers to Smarty Jones in the Belmont, won't contest the final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday at Belmont Park.

David Fiske, racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapit's owner, said yesterday that the colt had not completely recovered from a lung infection that hampered him earlier this spring. Tapit last raced in the Kentucky Derby, finishing ninth.

Michael Dickinson, who trains Tapit at his Tapeta Farm in Cecil County, could not be reached for comment.

Also, The Cliff's Edge, who was scratched from the Preakness because of a foot bruise, will miss the Belmont as well. After The Cliff's Edge breezed five furlongs in 1 minute, 2 3/5 seconds yesterday at the Oklahoma track at Saratoga, Nick Zito, his trainer, withdrew the colt from Belmont consideration. The Cliff's Edge finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby despite losing both front shoes.

"He got very, very tired after the work," Zito said. "He missed a whole week of training in Baltimore. He would have been only 90 percent ready to run in the Belmont."

Birdstone, another Zito trainee, also breezed at the Oklahoma track (six furlongs in 1:15 1/5). That prompted Zito to throw the colt into the Belmont mix.

"He looked very good," Zito said. "We're very pleased with how he's doing."

Zito's Royal Assault, winner of the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard, continues to be pointed to the Belmont.

As the field continues to develop, it stands at seven probable and two possible. The star, of course, is Smarty Jones, winner of all eight of his races, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. A victory in the Belmont would complete a sweep of the Triple Crown. Only 11 horses have accomplished that, and none since Affirmed in 1978.

Smarty Jones remains at his home base at Philadelphia Park, where his trainer, John Servis, has been preparing him for the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont in Elmont, N.Y. Smarty Jones has earned a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park for sweeping two Oaklawn stakes and the Kentucky Derby. He would earn another $5 million bonus from Visa for sweeping the Triple Crown.

That would swell Smarty Jones' earnings to $13,013,155, surpassing Cigar's $9,999,815 as the richest bankroll in North American thoroughbred racing history. Cigar, however, built his bankroll from racing purses.

Yesterday, Smarty Jones walked under the shedrow after his seven-furlong breeze Friday at Philadelphia Park. Servis said he plans on vanning him to Belmont on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"He came out of the work perfect," said Bill Foster, Servis' barn foreman. "We walked him for 25 minutes this morning, and he was really on the muscle - squealing and bucking. I even had to put a lip chain in his mouth to keep him under control."

A surprise horse joined the Belmont field yesterday, according to Belmont Park officials: Caiman, a Kentucky-bred son of Malibu Moon based at Hawthorne Race Course in Illinois. A winner of four of eight races, Caiman has not won a stakes. His most recent victory, May 10, came on yielding turf.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Purge, said there's "a chance" the Peter Pan winner would contest the Belmont. And Bobby Frankel, trainer of Master David, said his colt could challenge Smarty Jones.

"I might enter," he said. "Something has to happen for him to run."

Told that Tapit and The Cliff's Edge had defected, Frankel said, "Something more than that has to happen."

Prospective Belmont Stakes field

Horse Trainer Jockey Last race

Probable

Birdstone Nick Zito Edgar Prado 8th Ky. Derby

Caiman Angel Medina Undecided 1st allowance

Eddington Mark Hennig Jerry Bailey 3rd Preakness

Rock Hard Ten Jason Orman Patrick Valenzuela 2nd Preakness

Royal Assault Nick Zito Pat Day 1st Sir Barton

Smarty Jones John Servis Stewart Elliott 1st Preakness

Tap Dancer Ned Allard Javier Castellano 4th Sir Barton

Possible

Master David Bobby Frankel Alex Solis 3rd Peter Pan

Purge Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 1st Peter Pan

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