Able to take advantage of a ground-saving trip with jockey Alan Garcia, Presious Passion, sent off at odds of 10-1, closed powerfully on the outside of his rivals in the stretch run to win the 1 1/16-mile test by one length. He registered his first graded stakes win.
Trained by Mary Hartmann for owner Patricia A. Generazio, the 4-year-old Royal Anthem gelding earned his first stakes victory since taking the Jersey Derby nearly 14 months ago. Presious Passion had won just once in nine starts since then and appeared to have hit rock bottom with back-to-back seventh-place finishes in the Red Bank (gr. IIIT) and Oceanport (gr. IIIT) on the Monmouth Park lawn in his last two starts.
But Presious Passion, who was near the rear of the field for the opening six furlongs while racing along the inside, angled three wide on the final turn. The chestnut was clear through the lane while finishing with a flurry to draw away in the final strides in a final time of 1:41 2/5 on firm going.
"My horse was running so comfortable," Garcia said. "At the three-eighths pole, we were passing horses and had a good opportunity to move to the outside. My horse was running fast. I had faith in this horse. (I knew I had it won) by the sixteenth pole. Mary did a great job with this horse."
Presious Passion gave trainer Hartmann her first graded stakes win. The Newark, N.J., native was a longtime assistant to J.J. Crupi before going out on her own 11 years ago. Prior to the Cliff Hanger, Presious Passion had given her the biggest win of her career in Monmouth's Jersey Derby.
It was tight for second. Touched by Madness, also far back after being shuffled to the rear on the final turn, finished gamely under Stewart Elliott to gain the place by a head over 30-1 shot Carnera, with Jose Lezcano aboard. Fishy Advice finished a nose back in fourth.
The 2-5 favorite Silver Tree, riding the crest of a three-race winning streak for trainer Bill Mott, seized the lead from between horses on the final turn but could not finish with the closers, checking in fifth under jockey Kent Desormeaux. Silver Tree, winner of the Fourstar Dave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga in his last start, carried top weight of 123 and spotted the winner six pounds.
Tune of the Spirit, also owned by Generazio, set the early pace of :23 2/5 and ::47 1/5 before giving way to Silver Tree, who led after six furlongs in 1:11 3/5.
Making his first start on the Meadowlands turf, Presious Passion won for the fifth time in 20 career tries and boosted his earnings to $252,708. Joseph and Helen Barbazon bred the winner, who is out of the Marquetry mare Princesa's Passion, in Florida.
Sent off as part of entry that was the second-longest shot on the board, Presious Passion paid $23.40, $10.60 and $12. Touched by Madness, who was coming off a second-place finish in the Red Bank Sept. 1, returned $9.40 and $13, completing a $144.40 exacta. Darley Stable's Carnera was $19.60 to show in a much-improved effort for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Baron Von Tap and Tune of the Spirit trailed the seven-horse field. Heat of the Night and Jungle Fighter scratched.