Kelly Breen is thinking a
return to his home track and to his best distance will put Sleepless Knight in
serious contention Sunday as a field of seven goes in the $100,000 Cliff Hanger
Stakes (G3) on the grass.
Sleepless Knight has won five races in his career of 30
starts, and four of them have come at the Cliff Hanger distance of a mile and a
sixteenth. The 7-year-old son of War Chant is coming off a poor performance in
an allowance event at Saratoga,
where he finished last of nine.
“We screwed up that last race,” Breen said. “We put him
up on the pace tracking better horses. That was some allowance race. I think
there were two Grade 1 winners in there.”
Sleepless Knight backed up badly after contesting the
pace for more than a half-mile, finishing seven lengths behind the top trio
of Seal Cove, Turallure and Hoofit.
In his previous start, the Elkwood at one mile on grass
here, Sleepless Knight came from off the pace in the stretch, gained the lead,
and then lost the decision at the wire as Change of Command beat him a neck.
he’s back on the Monmouth grass, and Breen thinks that’s for the best.
“It’s always good when you don’t have to ship,” he said.
“There’s a lot of speed in the Cliff Hanger, and he can run his race. We’re
expecting a better performance this race.”
Helping Sleepless Knight run his best will be Paco Lopez,
who holds a commanding lead in Monmouth’s jockey race. Lopez has a win and a
second in four rides on Sleepless Knight.
Sleepless Knight, who is still an entire horse, is owned
by George and Lori Hall. He started his career at Monmouth on a bright note,
taking the Lamplighter Stakes here in 2009, when he won two of three starts. In
2010, he again demonstrated his talent with one win in three starts. Over the
last three seasons, he’s flashed brilliance at times – a second to Teaks North
in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes in 2011 was top stuff – but he’s often fallen
just short. He’s made only 30 starts in five seasons, and has run second eight
times to go with five wins and four thirds.
“It’s always been something with him,” Breen said. “He
always has issues. But he’s the oldest runner the Halls own, and he’s running
well right now.”
The Cliff Hanger, final graded stakes on turf this
season, also drew Patricia Generazio’s Tune Me In, Team Valor International’s
Howe Great, R R Partners’ Hudson Steele, High Point Thoroughbred Partners’ Hobo
Ridge and Fire Alarm, and Waterford Stable’s Summer Front.
Tune Me In, trained by Bruce Alexander, won the Cliff
Hanger last year coming off a victory in the Grade 3 Oceanport. This year, the
6-year-old is winless in four starts at Monmouth and ran seventh in the
Summer Front, a graded stakes winner the last two years,
makes his first start since April on Sunday and gets Joe Bravo aboard.
Howe Great and Hudson Steele, second and third in the
Oceanport (won by Silver Max) will renew their rivalry.
Hobo Ridge and Fire Alarm, both trained by Jorge Navarro,
will be looking for their first stakes win.