Peter Vegso's Florida homebred Hennessy horse was assigned high weight of 123 for the 1 1/16-mile Cliff Hanger, where he'll spot his eight rivals from four to six pounds. Silver Tree's last win for trainer Bill Mott came via a determined effort in Saratoga's Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT), also at 1 1/16 miles, on Aug. 5.
Kent Desormeaux, who was aboard Silver Tree for the Fourstardave victory, has the call on the chestnut once again.
After being turned out more than a year ago to Vegso's ranch for a six-month break due to joint pain, Silver Tree has returned in fine form for Mott, winning four of six starts. He won the Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT) in his first start back at Gulfstream Park on March 4, and his current three-race streak includes a victory in the Caesar Rodney at Delaware Park prior to the Fourstardave.
In his last win, Desormeaux had Silver Tree poised for action while prompting a slow pace to the top of the stretch on Saratoga's firm inner turf course. In spite of rallying while a bit wide, Silver Tree hooked up with the favorite, Brilliant, in the lane and disposed of that one leaving the eighth pole en route to a three-quarters of a length victory over Drum Major.
Overall, Silver Tree owns a 12-7-4 record in 34 lifetime starts with earnings of $1,495,149. He has been especially tough at the 1 1/16-mile turf distance, winning four of eight tries with two seconds and a third.
Silver Tree's opposition includes the second- and third-place finishers in a blanket finish to Monmouth Park's grassy Red Bank (gr. IIIT) Sept. 1, Touched by Madness and Baron Von Tap, respectively.
The 5-year-old Touched by Madness, a Sword Dance gelding trained by Florida-based Edward Pleas Jr., nearly upset the Red Bank field at odds of 23-1 but was beaten by a neck by Icy Atlantic after leading in the stretch of the one-mile test. Breaking from the inside, Stewart Elliott has the return ride. The bay was also second in the Skip Away on Monmouth's main track prior to the Red Bank.
Baron Von Tap was nipped by a head for second by Touched by Madness but gets off the rail for trainer Howard Tesher in the Cliff Hanger. The 6-year-old Pleasant Tap horse won Monmouth's Bob Harding in mid-July.
Stronach Stable's Ontario-bred Jungle Fighter comes in off back-to-back stakes victories on the Colonial Downs turf for trainer Justin Nixon, the last in the 1 1/16-mile Kitten's Joy July 21. The 6-year-old Wild Rush gelding has six wins in 14 lifetime starts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is represented by the South African-bred Heat of the Night, owned by Victor Chandler. A three-time winner in his native land, the 5-year-old Heat of the Night won his U.S. debut over allowance foes at Gulfstream Park in January but has started just twice since then. In his last effort, the son of Casey Tibbs ran second, beaten by less than a length, as the favorite in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming event on a firm Saratoga lawn Aug. 27.
Darley Stable's Carnera, the David Donk-trained Fishy Advice, and the Mary Hartman-conditioned Presious Passion each seek to rebound from distant back-to-back defeats against graded stakes company. Tune of the Spirit rounds out the field.
$150,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 10:41 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Touched by Madness (FL), 117, Stewart Elliott
2. Presious Passion (FL), 117, Alan Garcia
3. Silver Tree (FL), 123, Kent J. Desormeaux
4. Heat of the Night (SAF), 117, Christopher P. DeCarlo
5. Tune of the Spirit (FL), 117, Charles C. Lopez
6. Carnera (KY), 119, Jose Lezcano
7. Fishy Advice (KY), 117, Javier Castellano
8. Jungle Fighter (ON), 119, Horacio Karamanos
9. Baron Von Tap (KY), 119, Rajiv Maragh