07/08/2004 11:00PM

The Cliff's Edge renews quest

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The spring began on a promising note for with his win in the Grade 1 Blue Grass in April, but went downhill from there.

In his first race since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, The Cliff's Edge will look to jump-start his summer campaign in Sunday's $150,000 Dwyer at Belmont Park.

The Cliff's Edge's trainer, Nick Zito, holds a strong hand in the Grade 2 Dwyer. Zito also will run Derby Trial winner Sir Shackleton. The horses are coupled because Zito owns a percentage of The Cliff's Edge with Robert LaPenta.

The Dwyer, a one-turn 1 1/16-mile race, drew seven runners. For some of the horses, the Dwyer could serve as a stepping-stone to the key summer races in the 3-year-old division, the Jim Dandy, Haskell, and Travers.

As the fourth choice in the Kentucky Derby, The Cliff's Edge finished fifth after losing both front shoes in the slop. As a result, he sustained a foot bruise and missed the Preakness and Belmont, which was won by the Zito-trained Birdstone.

The Cliff's Edge has been training at Saratoga, where he has several solid works. Zito said the Dwyer is a good spot for the horse to make his return.

"For Cliff, it's a stepping-stone to get him back at the high level," Zito said. "It would be nice for The Cliff to have a good second half of the year."

Shane Sellers rides The Cliff's Edge, who makes his first start at Belmont Park. He drew post 4.

For Sir Shackleton, the Dwyer will give his connections an indication of how far he wants to run. Sir Shackleton finished sixth in the Preakness, his first start beyond a mile.

Zito won the 2000 Dwyer for Sir Shackleton's owner, Tracy Farmer, with Albert the Great.

"This is the time to bring him back to see if he's a quality horse and go from there," Zito said. "I thought he ran a great race in the Preakness. Outside of Smarty Jones, the other horses didn't beat him that far."

Preachinatthebar, who won the San Felipe in March, runs for the first time since undergoing throat surgery to correct a breathing problem.

Medallist was treated for a tender splint after winning the Grade 3 Withers in May. Shaniko is coming off a poor effort in the slop in the Northern Dancer at Churchill Downs last month. Ecclesiastic finished third in the Northern Dancer.

Golden Look, who is 2 for 2, makes his stakes debut.