The Cliff's Edge tabbed as favorite

Thursday, April 29, 2004

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Cliff's Edge was made the slight 4-1 favorite for the Kentucky Derby and drew the No. 11 post Wednesday.

A field of 20 3-year-olds was entered for the 1 1/4-mile race, with undefeated Arkansas Derby winner Smarty Jones the second choice at 9-2.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia had a tough time picking between The Cliff's Edge, trained by Nick Zito, and Smarty Jones, who is 6-0 in his career.

The last time 20 horses started the Derby was 1984. That year a rule was made to cap the field at 20.

The field in post position order from the rail out: Limehouse, Jose Santos, 30-1; Song of the Sword, Norberto Arroyo, 30-1; Lion Heart, Mike Smith, 10-1; Action This Day, David Flores, 30-1; Wimbledon, Jerry Bailey, 15-1; Friends Lake, Richard Migliore, 15-1; Minister Eric, Pat Day, 30-1; Master David, Alex Solis, 12-1; St Averil, Tyler Baze, 30-1; Imperialism, Kent Desormeaux, 15-1; The Cliff's Edge, Shane Sellers, 4-1; Borrego, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Birdstone, Edgar Prado, 50-1; Read the Footnotes, Robby Albarado, 12-1; Smarty Jones, Stewart Elliott, 9-2; Castledale, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1; Pollard's Vision, John Velazquez, 20-1; Tapit, Ramon Dominguez, 8-1; Pro Prado, John McKee, 30-1; and Quintons Gold Rush, Corey Nakatani, 20-1.

ito added, "This probably will be the best betting Derby ever. I don't see any clear-cut favorite."

Smarty Jones' John Servis and Stewart Elliott will try to become the first first-time Derby trainer and jockey combination to win since 1979 when Spectacular Bid won with Ronnie Franklin riding for trainer Bud Delp.

Servis said he wasn't surprised that Smarty Jones wasn't made the favorite.

"We took the route of least resistance. We only ran in one graded stakes," he said.

The colt drew the No. 15 post.

"We like the idea of being the first horse in the auxiliary gate," Servis said. "It leaves a little bit of a margin for error in case he ducks in. It keeps him from getting squeezed off."

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella goes for his first Derby win with two horses -- Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day and Minister Eric.

Lion Heart was the fourth choice at 10-1. Master David, trained by Bobby Frankel, and Read the Footnotes were the co-fifth choices at 12-1.

"I just played it safe and picked someplace in the middle," Frankel said. "The race will set up with Lion Heart going to the lead. What Smarty Jones does will dictate the whole race."

Four horses were at 15-1: Friends Lake, Imperialism, Wimbledon and Santa Anita Derby winner Castledale.

Three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert selected post five for Wimbledon. Baffert's horse, War Emblem, started there in 2002 and won; last year's winner Funny Cide also broke from No. 5.

"I wanted an inside post. I was hoping to get the five," Baffert said. "He's the kind of horse that's going to be following, he'll be back in the pack somewhere."

The last time 20 horses started the Derby was 1984. That year a rule was made to cap the field at 20, and since then the maximum has yet to be reached.

The field in post position order from the rail out: Limehouse, Jose Santos, 30-1; Song of the Sword, Norberto Arroyo, 30-1; Lion Heart, Mike Smith, 10-1; Action This Day, David Flores, 30-1; Wimbledon, Jerry Bailey, 15-1; Friends Lake, Richard Migliore, 15-1; Minister Eric, Pat Day, 30-1; Master David, Alex Solis, 12-1; St Averil, Tyler Baze, 30-1; Imperialism, Kent Desormeaux, 15-1; The Cliff's Edge, Shane Sellers, 4-1; Borrego, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Birdstone, Edgar Prado, 50-1; Read the Footnotes, Robby Albarado, 12-1; Smarty Jones, Stewart Elliott, 9-2; Castledale, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1; Pollard's Vision, John Velazquez, 20-1; Tapit, Ramon Dominguez, 8-1; Pro Prado, John McKee, 30-1; and Quintons Gold Rush, Corey Nakatani, 20-1.

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