Even-money favorite Old Forester got up in the final two strides to win the $150,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes (gr. IIIT) by a nose over 40-1 shot Tune of the Spirit on opening night at the Meadowlands Friday.Old Forester ($4.20, $2.80, $2.40), owned by Live Oak Plantation and trained by Bill Mott, saved all the ground, angling out in the final sixteenth for jockey Edgar Prado to make his bid in the Cliff Hanger, a 1 1/16-mile turf event. The 5-year-old chestnut horse by Forestry had just enough to catch pacesetter Tune of the Spirit ($21.00, $7.00) and Felix Ortiz at the wire. It was a length to Crown Point ($5.00), ridden by Jose Lezcano, in third. The final time was 1:42 2/5 on firm going.Old Forester posted his second win, with three seconds, in six starts this year. Lifetime, the turf specialist now has six wins, 10 seconds, and two thirds from 21 tries and has banked more than $450,000.
"He ran real hard the whole way," said Prado. "I had a perfect trip and was very comfortable going down the backside. He settled easy and was able to zip up the fence going into the turn. "Turning for home, I just eased him off the fence," Prado added. "(Tune of the Spirit) was very game. He was able to get away with some soft fractions, but my horse was closing strongly. At the wire, I knew it was close. I was just hoping I got it."
Tune of the Spirit cut easy fractions of :24 4/5, :49 3/5 and 1:13 3/5 and battled strongly through the lane. Crown Point, languishing at the rear of the pack behind Old Forester, launched his bid coming off the turn and finished evenly to edge Night Chapter by a neck for third. Spring House, Indy Wind, Etesaal, and Senor Swinger completed the order.Robert Benjamin Berger bred Old Forester, who is out of Halo River (Irish River), in Kentucky. (Chart, Equibase)