Friday, May 14, 2004

Maybe 4th try will be charm for Lion Heart

The Associated Press

BALTIMORE - In three races this year, Lion Heart has finished second, second and second. The classy colt loves to run on the lead, but he has been caught in the stretch every time.

Smarty Jones surged past him to win the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. The Cliff's Edge ran him down in the Blue Grass. Imperialism beat him by a neck in the San Rafael.

What's a trainer's next move? Try again, naturally.

That's exactly what Patrick Biancone will do Saturday when he sends Lion Heart to challenge undefeated Smarty Jones and nine other 3-year-olds in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Lion Heart has tasted victory before - he won all three of his starts as a 2-year-old - but this year he seems to run out of steam before the finish line.

"We play to win, obviously," Biancone said. "I know it's going to be very difficult to beat Smarty Jones, but we are going to try. If we do it, well done. If we cannot, we cannot."

Smarty Jones has run off seven straight wins to become the first unbeaten Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977. A win in the Preakness - Smarty's the 8-5 favorite - would send him to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Lion Heart, meanwhile, will simply try to end his losing streak.

A shorter race over a quicker track may help a speedster like Lion Heart, but Smarty Jones' trainer John Servis says his colt thrives under any conditions.

The Preakness field has six Derby starters, although fifth-place finisher The Cliff's Edge may be scratched today because of a sore right front foot. The others are Smarty Jones, Lion Heart, Imperialism, Borrego and Song of the Sword. The new shooters are Eddington, Rock Hard Ten, Sir Shackleton, Little Matth Man and Water Cannon.

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