Owner/Breeder LaPenta Sponsors The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial; Final Derby Prep's Purse Now $200,000

Jan 08, 2010 John Asher

Prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder Robert LaPenta will honor one his most accomplished horses and boost the significance of the final major prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) after reaching an agreement with the historic track to sponsor this year’s 86th running of the $200,000-added The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII).

The 2010 renewal of the race, which was restored to Grade III status in 2009 by the American Graded Stakes Committee, will carry a purse of $200,000-added – which doubles the purse offered a year ago – and will return to its previous distance of one mile.  It was run at 7 ½ furlongs from 2007-09.  The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial, named in honor of LaPenta’s Grade I winner The Cliff’s Edge, is scheduled for Saturday, April 24 – opening day of the 42-day Spring Meet and one week before the Kentucky Derby – and is the final graded prep race before the famed “Run for the Roses” on Saturday, May 1.

The major increase in the purse for The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trail will undoubtedly make the race more attractive to some owners and trainers who hope to land a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters with preference to horses who have compiled the highest total earnings in graded stakes races.

The Cliff’s Edge, who continues a breeding career as a member of the stallion roster at Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky., compiled a record of 4-5-2 in 13 career starts with earnings of $1,265,258.  Trained for LaPenta by two-time Kentucky Derby-winner Nick Zito, he won the 2004 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland and swept Churchill Downs’ 2003 Fall Meet stakes races for the 2-year-olds, the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and Iroquois (GIII).  The Cliff’s Edge was the morning line favorite for the 2004 Kentucky Derby, but finished fifth to Smarty Jones following an eventful run over a “sloppy” track during which he lost both front shoes and suffered a bruised foot.

“Our sponsorship of The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial is very exciting in that it allows our racing operation to contribute to the success and allure of a race that has a wonderful tradition as a Kentucky Derby prep as we honor one of our more successful horses, The Cliff’s Edge, and provide a boost to his ongoing career as a stallion,” LaPenta said.  “Despite an unlucky run in the 2004 Kentucky Derby, The Cliff’s Edge enjoyed the finest moments of his racing career at Churchill Downs and in the state of Kentucky.  We look forward to seeing his name and legacy being an important part of the week leading up to the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby and the possibility that a major contender for this year’s Derby could emerge with a big effort in this final important prep.”

'We thank Robert LaPenta for his enthusiastic support of Churchill Downs racing and the Kentucky Derby,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack.  “His sponsorship of The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial will significantly enhance the attractiveness and prestige of this historic final prep for America’s Greatest Race.  Graded earnings are an increasingly important factor as the field for the Kentucky Derby takes shape in the days before the race and we expect that Mr. LaPenta’s efforts, along with the boost in purse and adjustment in distance, will serve to make the 2010 renewal of The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial one of its most notable in years.”

The one-mile The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial has served as the final prep for an impressive group of 13 Kentucky Derby winners through the decades.  The race was first run in 1924 and that inaugural running was won by Black Gold, who returned to win the Derby.  Others who swept both races include Triple Crown winner Citation (1948), Hill Gail (1952), Dark Star (1953) and Tim Tam (1958).

Horses that failed to win the Derby Trial but won the Kentucky Derby include Triple Crown winners Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946), Lawrin (1938), Gallahadion (1940), Ponder (1949), Middleground (1950), Determine (1954) and Iron Liege (1957).  Assault and Iron Liege finished off-the-board in their respective runnings of the Trial, while the others were runners-up in their renewals.

The most recent Derby Trial winner to play a significant role in the Kentucky Derby was B. Wayne Hughes’ Don’t Get Mad, who finished fourth to Giacomo in the 2005 Derby.

Other notables to win The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial through the years include Ack Ack, Caveat, Key to the Mint, Hill Rise, Crozier, Federal Hill, Housebuster, Cherokee Run and Richter Scale.  Recent Trial winners include the then unbeaten Hull, who defeated Jim Dandy (GII) and Dwyer (GII) winner Kensei to take the 2009 renewal, and 2008 winner Macho Again, who later finished second in the Preakness (GI) and won the 2009 running of Churchill Downs’ Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).   

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