08/06/2004 12:00AM

Not all Zito's Travers eggs in one basket


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Having captured his first Belmont Stakes earlier this year, trainer Nick Zito is now setting his sights on the other major race he covets so much: the Travers.

Zito already has Birdstone, the Belmont winner, gearing up for the Travers, run here on Aug. 28. He looks to strengthen his hand this weekend with The Cliff's Edge, who will prep for the Travers in Sunday's Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.

heads a seven-horse field entered for the Jim Dandy. In Royal Assault and Pies Prospect, Zito has two of the nine runners entered in Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, another 3-year-old race that could produce starters for the Travers. The Jim Dandy will be shown on tape delay during a one-hour broadcast of the Haskell [6 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2].

The Jim Dandy affords The Cliff's Edge another shot at Medallist, who ran the field off their feet winning last month's Dwyer Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths in a stakes record 1:40.02. The Cliff's Edge rallied from far back to be second. While the one-turn, 1 1/16-mile Dwyer played to the strengths of the speedy Medallist, the two-turn, 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy should suit The Cliff's Edge.

The last time The Cliff's Edge ran under such conditions, he wore down Lion Heart to win the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes. That victory made The Cliff's Edge the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but he threw two shoes in the race and finished fifth as the third choice. A bruised foot knocked The Cliff's Edge out of the Preakness and Belmont.

"This isn't the ultimate, but I'm happy with the way he's coming into the race,'' said Zito, who won the 1996 Jim Dandy with Preakness winner Louis Quatorze. "I want to have a couple of shots at the Travers and my best two shots are these two horses.''

The Cliff's Edge will break from post 3 under Shane Sellers and highweight of 123 pounds.

is the wild card in the Jim Dandy. He will break from the rail under Jorge Chavez (121 pounds) and will definitely be on the lead. The question he will have to answer is whether he can carry his speed a distance of ground.

"Can't find out unless you do it, I guess,'' said Allen Jerkens, trainer of Medallist. "He's been so fast in his other races we'll have to see what he does. Sometimes it works out, you just hope the horse is good enough. Some horses can set pretty good fractions and keep on going.''

is another who must prove himself around two turns. After unsuccessfully chasing Smarty Jones in a pair of two-turn races at Oaklawn Park, Purge won the one-turn, nine-furlong Peter Pan at Belmont by 6 3/4 lengths. He finished last in the Belmont, but trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt lost his composure in the paddock and was too rank early.

The presence of Medallist in the field should give Purge a target. "If somebody's going faster in front of him that'll help him to relax a little bit,'' Pletcher said.

Eddington distinguished himself as a two-turn horse last winter at Gulfstream Park and with a decent third-place finish in the Wood Memorial. Throughout the spring he was a bit immature, failing to switch leads correctly. He was a non-factor in the Preakness and Belmont, but his trainer, Mark Hennig, has seen improvement.

"He seems like he's more like your everyday horse now,'' Hennig said. "I'm hopeful that he's matured. I haven't seen any of that where he doesn't want to be on the correct lead; he's done everything the right way.''

Richard Migliore replaces Jerry Bailey. Under the allowance conditions of the race, Eddington gets eight pounds from The Cliff's Edge.

Swingforthefences finished second to Purge in the Peter Pan, but came back to win the Iowa Derby. He is entered in both the Haskell and Jim Dandy, but trainer Rick Violette said he is likely to run here.

Courageous Act, second to Swingforthefences in Iowa, and Niigon, the Queen's Plate winner, complete the field.

The field

The Jim Dandy Stakes
Purse: $500,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 2

1UpperlowerhorseE. Jockeyguy126X-1
1MedallistJ. Chavez1213-1
2Courageous ActE. Prado11710-1
3The Cliff's EdgeS. Sellers1232-1
4NiigonR. Landry11712-1
5EddingtonR. Migliore1155-1
6SwingforthefencesS. Bridgmohan1176-1
7PurgeJ. Velazquez1213-1

* Odds by Dan Illman
* Television: Sunday, ESPN2, 6 - 7 p.m. Eastern