09/18/2007 11:00PM

Baron Von Tap at top of game

EmailEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - With a little better racing luck, trainer Howie Tesher believes Baron Von Tap would be carrying a two-stakes winning streak into the Grade 3, $150,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes on Friday night at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

The Cliff Hanger attracted nine horses going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, including the graded stakes winner Silver Tree.

Baron Von Tap turned in excellent efforts in his last two races, both at Monmouth Park. He captured the Bob Harding Stakes on July 14 and was beaten only a neck in the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes on Sept. 1.

"If he could have gotten off the rail last time, he could have won," Tesher said. "He would rather be on the outside. It wasn't really the rider's fault, but that was just where he was. To get beat like that was tough."

Rajiv Maragh has the return call.

The two races at Monmouth followed a failed attempt to turn Baron Von Tap into a come-from-behind turf sprinter at Belmont Park.

"I screwed up a little bit when I ran him three-quarters and then seven-eighths of a mile," Tesher said. "They are too fast for him."

Baron Von Tap snapped right back in the two Monmouth races, both at one mile on the grass.

"He just got real good," Tesher said of Baron Von Tap, who joined his barn earlier this year. "I don't know why he did. He's trains hard. He loves it. Horses tout you. They tell you what to do. He's awfully good right now. When they're good, you should run them."

Baron Von Tap will need a very good effort to beat Silver Tree. A 7-year-old trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Silver Tree has won three straight, including the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 5.

Silver Tree's other stakes win this year came in his first start of the season: the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream Park on March 4.

Kent Desormeaux will ride.

Completing the field are Touched by Madness, runner-up last time out in the Red Bank; Presious Passion, winner of last year's Jersey Derby; Fishy Advice, who captured Monmouth's Battlefield Stakes in June; Tune of the Spirit, beaten in last year's Cliff Hanger by a nose; Carnera; Heat of the Night; and Jungle Fighter.

Presious Passion and Tune of the Spirit are an entry from owner Patricia Generazio.

Dark Equation tops steeplechase

Steeplechasing returns to the Meadowlands for a third straight year with the Grade 2, $75,000 Somerset Medical Center Steeplechase for novice jumpers. The 2 1/2-mile race will start midway on the backstretch before completing two full circuits of the seven-eighths-mile course over 10 National fences. The novice condition restricts the race to horses who did not win over hurdles prior to June 1, 2006.

The race attracted seven, including Dark Equation, who barely squeezed in under the conditions. He won his steeplechase maiden on July 2, 2006, at Colonial Downs and most recently posted a five-length allowance win at Saratoga.

"The farther he went, the more he wanted to run off," said jockey Matt McCarron, the nephew of Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron. "I've never been on a horse at Saratoga who was doing that. He was perfect."

Dark Equation is trained by Doug Fout, who also has Gliding in the race.

Divine Fortune, 4, is the baby in the field. He is trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard.

Divine Fortune also won last time out at Saratoga, pulling away to an 8o1/4-length win for his third win in the last four races.

"This is a nice young horse who is training well," Sheppard said. "He's a really beautiful jumper. He really ran good at Saratoga."

Sheppard also saddles Dr. Bloomer.

Completing the field are Swimming River and the Tom Voss-trained duo of Planets Aligned and Dynaway. All seven horses race as separate betting interests.

* The Egret will not take wing Friday. The stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters did not fill and has been rescheduled for Saturday.