10/13/2004 12:00AM

'American' sitting on top effort


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - American Freedom, one of the most honest New Jersey-based turf runners, looks for a breakthrough victory Friday night in the Grade 3, $200,000 Cliff Hanger Handicap at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

A 6-year-old gray gelding, is winless in seven starts at the Big M, where he has 1 second and 3 thirds. Overall, American Freedom has won 9 of 34 starts, including a win in this year's Jersey Breeders' Turf Handicap at Monmouth Park.

The Big M failures are a product of the calendar, according to trainer Jamie Woodington.

"Usually this time of year, he is tailing off because he runs so much over the summer," said Woodington. "This year, he is still going strong."

His latest effort, on opening night of the Big M meet, was one of American Freedom's best. He set the pace in an allowance race and finished third by a neck, earning a 97 Beyer Figure, only two points lower than his all-time best.

, the first two finishers in the allowance, also return for the 1 1/16-mile Cliff Hanger. Each will carry 116 pounds, one more than American Freedom, the lone New Jersey-bred in the 11-horse field.

The race attracted a solid group that includes many runners who have done battle over the summer in Monmouth's grass stakes.

The Chilean-bred Host is a fresh face in the race. The highweight in the race at 117, Host will be making his fourth start in the U.S. and the first since early April.

In his first two U.S. races, he ran second in grass allowance races at Gulfstream. Host then ran third in the mud behind Funny Cide in the Grade 3 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.

Hotsufanthensome will carry 115 pounds for his second stakes appearance. He ran fourth in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, a race in which he encountered traffic trouble in the stretch. A 4-year-old gelding trained by Norman Pointer, Hotsufanthensome rallied to beat Stormy Ray in a Monmouth allowance race last time out. Stormy Ray totes 114 pounds for the rematch.