Patricia Generazio's Tune Me In silenced his doubters Sept. 1 at Monmouth Park when he shook free to win the $99,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes (gr. IIIT), his second straight graded stakes score in less than three months (VIDEO).
Those who thought a July 29 win at 25-1 in the Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT) was a fluke for the 5-year-old Concorde's Tune gelding were surprised to see him hold off the late charge of even-money favorite Salto. Tune Me In asserted himself at the quarter pole and dug in to win by one length. Final time for the flat mile on firm turf was 1:33.96.
"When you don't expect it, it's especially nice to win," trainer Bruce Alexander said of the 6-1 shot. "He's all heart. In the late stretch, I thought my horse was never in any jeopardy. They weren't closing the gap. In mid-stretch, you think you're vulnerable and they're going to close in, but in the last 50 yards he was actually getting a little space in between him and the contenders."
Tune Me In and Get Serious raced in tandem on the lead for a :24.23 opening quarter and a half in :47.65, with Tune Me In on the inside under Paco Lopez and Get Serious outside under Pablo Fragoso. Well-reserved by Lopez, the gray gelding responded well when asked heading into the far turn.
"I wasn't going to let Get Serious get away and Pablo had to use his horse while I was just sitting and waiting," Lopez said. "At the quarter pole I asked him for his run and he took off."
Salto, racing in last to the far turn under Elvis Trujillo, swung four wide into the lane and rallied outside to get the place. It was another head back to Get Serious, who surged back for third. Lentenor was fourth and Upgrade completed the order of finish. Admiral Perry and Glass Art scratched.
Tune Me In paid $15.40, $5.20, and $2.20. Salto brought back $3.40 and $2.20, and Get Serious returned $2.40.
Tune Me In, bred in Florida by Joseph and Helen Barbazon, is out of the Court Trial mare Pleasant Courtney. Tune Me In has a 5-7-4 record from his 21 starts, with earnings of $349,845.
"I am very impressed by this horse," Alexander said. "He's an overachiever. Even though he was a nice, useful horse, he's moved up to another level now."
The Cliff Hanger win was a stakes sweep at Monmouth by Lopez, who earlier rode Say a Novena to battle back on the inside in the $60,000 Miss Woodford Stakes. The Eddie Plesa Jr.-trained daughter of Songandaprayer covered six furlongs over a fast main track in 1:10.04 and paid $22.80, $8.40 and $4.20. Singlet, who was a half-length back in second, completed the $84.20 exacta and returned $3.60 and $2.60. It was another length and three-quarters back to Klondike Kate, the favorite in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies, who paid $2.80 to show.
"They told me to just go out there and see what she wants to do," said Lopez. "She broke well and we were on top quickly. Singlet went by us, but I still had horse and she fought back gamely on the rail."
Say a Novena, who was 10th last year in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), scored her first victory of the season by taking the Miss Woodford. The Rick Shanley color-bearer now sports a record of 4-4-0 from 13 starts, good for earnings of $318,350.