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Turfway star is Derby favorite

Thursday, April 29, 2004 12:00 AM
  • General
FLORENCE, KY . . . April 29, 2004 . . . Turfway fans hope to say “we knew you when” after the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks this weekend. Both The Cliff’s Edge, the 4-1 morning line favorite in the Derby, and Class Above, facing tough competition in the Oaks, served notice of their potential at Turfway as two-year-olds, and Class Above returned to the Northern Kentucky track last month for her Oaks warm-up.

The Cliff’s Edge, trained by Nick Zito, finished third in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3) at Turfway last September but was moved up to second when the apparent winner, Pomeroy, was disqualified for interference. Ridden then as now by Shane Sellers, The Cliff’s Edge finished just 1 1/4 lengths back, a notable effort given that he broke in the air leaving the gate and then was steadied in the stretch to avoid the swerving Pomeroy.

The Cliff’s Edge leads all Derby contenders with $793,258 in graded-stakes winnings, the earnings that determined which hopefuls made the 20-horse field. Much of that total came in his final prep, the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland on April 10. The Cliff’s Edge enters the $1 million, Grade 1 Kentucky Derby with a record of four wins, two seconds, and one third from eight starts. He will break from post 11 on Saturday.

Class Above came winging down the stretch last September to win the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies by 16 lengths. While she followed that effortless victory with seventh-place finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and the Las Virgenes Stakes (G1), both at Santa Anita, she returned to Turfway on Lane’s End Stakes Day in March to win the $150,000 Bourbonette Breeders’ Cup. Class Above is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden in the $500,000, Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks by Corey Nakatani. Mike Battaglia, oddsmaker for Churchill Downs and Turfway’s track announcer, put her at 20-1 on the morning line. She has three wins from five lifetime starts and will break from post 11 in the 12-horse field.

Birdstone, another Derby entrant trained by Nick Zito, finished fifth in the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway in March. Rightly sent off as the favorite that day, the colt gave little indication of the ability that gave him a going-away win in the Champagne Stakes (G1) as a two-year-old and is 50-1 for the Derby. Birdstone is a son of 1996 Derby winner Grindstone and a half-brother to Birdtown, who won the Oaks last year.

Sinister G, who won the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway, was pulled from Derby consideration April 24. The colt has twice been treated for a respiratory infection since finishing 10th in the Wood Memorial (G1), and after a wait-and-see period trainer John Toscano Jr. decided he could not recover in time to resume training for the Derby. Sinister G will next be considered for the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico.

Turfway Park will simulcast all the Oaks and Derby action. Grandstand and Clubhouse admission are free. Seats in the Race Book, dining room, and Homestretch restaurant may be reserved by calling the track at 859-371-0200. Reserved seating in the Homestretch includes a full buffet. Gates open at 10:15 a.m. both Friday and Saturday.

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