08/21/2016 4:55PM

Can'thelpbelieving relishes shorter distance, softer company in Cliff Hanger

Taylor Ejdys/Equi-Photo
Can'thelpbelieving, ridden by Trevor McCarthy, wins the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger by 2 3/4 lengths.

Can'thelpbelieving was dropping in class and shortening up in distance for the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park on Sunday, and the result was a going-away victory in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Can'thelpbelieving had made his last three starts for trainer Graham Motion in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, the Grade 1 United Nations, and the Grade 1 Man o' War, all 1 3/8-mile turf races. Although he wasn't badly beaten in any of those races, he hadn't won since scoring a second-level optional-claiming victory at Parx six starts ago in May 2015.

His owner, Albert Frassetto, was on hand for the race.

"We were always in the money but I think we have him right now," Frassetto said. "He's always been an honest horse."

On Sunday in the $103,000 Cliff Hanger, jockey Trevor McCarthy took Can'thelpbelieving back off the pace and bided his time. McCarthy guided Can'thelpbelieving to the outside entering the stretch and he took the lead in midstretch from pacesetter Il Segreto and Hothersal, who was racing along the inner rail. The 5-year-old Ireland-bred Can’thelpbelieving pulled away to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

"I just kind of sat on him and let him relax," McCarthy said. "When I swung him out he was much the best today."

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Can'thelpbelieving paid $5.80 as the favorite in the seven-horse field. The final time over firm turf was a good 1:46.77, following reasonable fractions of 24.31 seconds, 47.96, and 1:11.34.

Can'thelpbelieving is now 4 for 18 in his career with earnings of $309,907. The Cliff Hanger was his first stakes win.

Hothersal had a ground-saving trip on the far turn and into the stretch, bid for the lead inside horses in midstretch but could not keep pace with the winner. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Il Segreto in third.

Il Segreto, a French-bred who was making his U.S. debut for Christophe Clement, was keen setting the pace on an open lead and flattened out late.

Captain Dixie lacked the needed rally when asked and finished fourth. Heiko, the longest shot in the race at 23-1, stalked Il Segreto early, moved up to challenge nearing the far turn but tired to finish fifth. Syntax lodged his bid outside horses on the far turn and was fanned wide into the stretch. He finished seventh.