Get Serious is the 5-2 choice on the morning line for the Cliff Hanger Stakes.

Get Serious is the 5-2 choice on the morning line for the Cliff Hanger Stakes.

David Owens/EQUI-PHOTO

Get Serious Faces Nemesis in Cliff Hanger

Race itself a challenge; new foe Tune Me In could prevent 'third time's the charm.'

Get Serious is a fan favorite at Monmouth Park, where he has won eight stakes (five of them grade III affairs). But the 8-year-old gelding faces multiple challenges going into the Sept. 1 Cliff Hanger Stakes (gr. IIIT) as the 5-2 choice on the morning line, including a new rival and his own record in the one-mile turf event.

In two previous attempts, Get Serious finished fifth (2009) and sixth (2011) in the Cliff Hanger, although he has valid excuses for both results. Three years ago the race was run over a yielding turf course; he prefers firm going. In 2011 he stumbled at the start and bumped with a rival, tiring after contesting the pace.

Trainer John Forbes said the son of City Zip is "the best he's been for as long as we can remember" going into the one-mile Cliff Hanger. Get Serious has completely recovered from a nasty lingering leg infection that compromised his 2011 campaign, when the earner of more than  $1.1 million failed to win a single race.

In 2012 Get Serious has been off the board just once (sixth in the Elkwood Stakes in May first time off a layup dating back to September of 2011). He was third in the Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) and won his third straight edition of the Red Bank (gr. IIIT) in July before completing the trifecta in the July 29 Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT) for owners James Dinan and Phantom House Farm.

The upsetter in that event, 25-1 shot Tune Me In, is included in the field of seven older turf runners for the $100,000 Cliff Hanger, which will be run as race nine with an approximate post of 4:58 p.m. EDT. He shares a 123-pound impost with Get Serious and the Michele Nihei-trained Upgrade. Get Serious breaks from post 5 under regular rider Pablo Fragoso, while Tune Me In will be ridden by Paco Lopez from the rail. Upgrade leaves the 7 hole with Chris DeCarlo.

Last time out in the Oceanport, Tune Me In vied with Get Serious for the lead through slow early fractions and edged away to a half-length victory in his first start in graded company. Get Serious wound up third, passed by the late-closing Queen'splatekitten, beaten only three-quarters of a length while digging to the wire. 

"We got an inch of rain on the day before that race," Forbes recalled. "I wasn't going to run on Saturday if the course was going to be soft. But it should be firm, just the way he likes it. It looks like the weather is going to cooperate and I think it's going to take a really good horse to beat him."

Forecast for Sept. 1 at the Oceanport oval is mostly sunny with a high of 84, with no rain expected in the area until the following day.

Tune Me In, trained by Bruce Alexander, has started just three times in 2012 and is 6-1 on the morning line. The Oceanport was a first win since September of 2011 for the 5-year-old Concorde's Tune gelding. He finished seventh in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance at Belmont Park July 5 after setting the pace inside, and was third in an overnight stakes at Monmouth in June for owner Patricia Generazio. 

Upgrade, 3-1, won the June 8 Jaipur Stakes (gr. IIIT) going seven furlongs on the Belmont lawn and recently ran fifth in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course. The 5-year-old gelded son of St. Liam races for Dennis Narlinger and likes to run mid-pack.

Other familiar names in the field include Admiral Perry and Lentenor . The latter, a 5-year-old full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Barbaro, by Dynaformer, got his first stakes win for Roy and Gretchen Jackson's Lael Stable when he won the July 21 Kitten's Joy Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Colonial Downs by a head. Leigh Delacour trains the 4-1 shot, who breaks from post 2 under Kendrick Carmouche carrying 116 pounds.

Admiral Perry, a 4-year-old First Samurai  colt trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, was fourth in the Oceanport in his graded stakes debut for Stuart S. Janney III. He leaves post 3 under Joe Bravo.

Salto, a European import seeking his first North American score in three starts at Monmouth for Wertheimer and Frere and trainer Todd Pletcher, and Glass Art, who last won a June 9 optional claimer going 1 1/8 miles by a neck for trainer Greg Sacco and Red Oak Stable, complete the field. Salto is a 4-year-old colt by the British stallion Pivotal, while Glass Art is a 4-year-old Hennessy gelding.   

$100,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 4:58 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Tune Me In (FL), P Lopez, 123, B F Alexander, 6-1
2. Lentenor (KY), K. Carmouche, 116, L Delacour, 4-1
3. Admiral Perry (KY), J. Bravo, 116, C R McGaughey III, 9-2
4. Salto (IRE), E. Trujillo, 116, T A Pletcher, 6-1
5. Get Serious (NY), P. Fragoso, 123, J H Forbes, 5-2
6. Glass Art (KY), A. Serpa, 116, G D Sacco, 12-1
7. Upgrade (KY), C.P. DeCarlo, 123, M Nihei, 3-1