04/06/2004 12:00AM

Blue Grass next stop for The Cliff's Edge


LEXINGTON, Ky. - After weeks of trying to decide which race would serve as the final Kentucky Derby prep for The Cliff's Edge, trainer Nick Zito announced Tuesday that the colt will join stablemate Birdstone in the lineup for the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday.

Zito had left open his options with The Cliff's Edge since the colt rallied to finish third behind Friends Lake and Value Plus in the March 13 Florida Derby. Over the last week or so, Zito had narrowed his list to the Blue Grass or Wood Memorial before conferring with owner Robert La Penta and deciding on the Blue Grass.

Zito said one deciding factor in favor of the Blue Grass was that The Cliff's Edge has trained steadily at Keeneland since arriving here several weeks ago and would not have to ship anywhere. The Cliff's Edge posted a sharp workout here Saturday, going six furlongs in 1:14.

"Mr. La Penta has said all along that he didn't really care what race we used, just, 'Get me to the Derby,' " said Zito. "Obviously that's always the ultimate goal."

Zito also will run Birdstone, the beaten favorite three weeks ago in the Lane's End Stakes, in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass, which was expected to get nine 3-year-olds when entries were drawn Wednesday. The Zito pair will race uncoupled for wagering purposes.

With jockeys, this is the prospective field for the Grade 1 Blue Grass: Action This Day, David Flores; Breakaway, Robby Albarado; Birdstone, Edgar Prado; Limehouse, Jose Santos; Lion Heart, Mike Smith; Mustanfar, Richard Migliore; Preachinatthebar, Javier Santiago; That's an Outrage, Mark Guidry; and The Cliff's Edge, Shane Sellers.

Perfect Drift in Maker's Mark

After a winter of rest and relaxation, Perfect Drift, one of the top handicap horses of 2003, will make his 5-year-old debut Friday as part of a terrific field in the $200,000 Maker's Mark Mile.

Trainer Murray Johnson said Perfect Drift, a gelding who earned more than $1.5 million last year for breeder-owner Dr. William Reed, "came back good after getting a good rest" and has had "about five works" at Trackside Louisville.

"We brought him back last year in an allowance race on the grass on the Maker's Mark undercard," recalled Johnson. "He won that race, so it was a good starting point for the year. This year, the conditions and distance of the allowance aren't the same, so we thought it'd be okay to run in the Maker's Mark. He's doing very well."

Although Perfect Drift was a disappointing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic in his 2003 finale, he had a sensational year, winning 5 of 8 starts, including a victory over the eventual Horse of the Year, Mineshaft, in the Stephen Foster Handicap in June.

The 10-horse maximum is expected for the Maker's Mark, a Grade 2 race at a mile on turf. Besides Perfect Drift, the other probables include Perfect Soul, Honor in War, Burning Roma, Royal Spy, Silver Swinger, Stroll, and several others.

Wando to skip Commonwealth

Keeneland officials said Tuesday that although Wando, last year's Canadian Triple Crown winner, no longer is a candidate to run Saturday in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup, the seven-furlong race still is expected to feature Congaree versus Lion Tamer and Private Horde.

Congaree, trained by Bob Baffert, was expected to arrive Wednesday at Churchill Downs on a flight from Southern California. The 6-year-old horse worked five furlongs Monday at Santa Anita in 59.80 seconds.

Wando, trained by Mike Keogh, probably will run at this meet in either an allowance race or against 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava in the April 22 Ben Ali Stakes.

Day larger than life

Pat Day has been honored by the Greater Louisville Pride Foundation and Churchill Downs with a 50-foot-tall mural of the Hall of Fame jockey on the side of a building in downtown Louisville.

Churchill helped with the cost of the mural, which depicts Day with his arms outstretched following his win in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. The mural is on the side of an old bank building on the southwest corner of Second St. and Broadway.

Day, 50, is the latest local legend to be honored with a mural in Louisville, having been preceded by Muhammad Ali, Pee Wee Reese, and others.