12/01/2005 12:00AM

'Hotstuf' still has something to prove


MIAMI - Hotstufanthensome has won more money this year than any of his 11 rivals in Saturday's $100,000 . He's also coming off the best performance of his career, a 14 1/2-length victory over a boggy course in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Handicap at The Meadowlands. But Hotstufanthensome, the 118-pound highweight, might still need a few breaks if he is to come out on top in a wide open Grade 3 Tropical Turf.

Hotstufanthensome, a 5-year-old son of Awesome Again, will concede from two to six pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Tropical Turf. He earned the role of highweight off his consistent record and big win in the Cliff Hanger. But even his trainer, Norman Pointer, says that the Cliff Hanger performance was as much a result of the soft turf that night as anything else.

"He loves a soft course, but I think a lot of the way he won had to do with the fact that most of the others in the field probably didn't take to the track that night," said Pointer, who trains Hotstufanthensome for the Runnin Horse Farm. "I'm a little surprised we wound up highweight in this race, especially since Silver Tree has beaten us both times we've run against him. But my horse is sharp now, runs on everything, and if he gets a good trip should be tough."

Silver Tree will likely be the favorite for trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey, coming off his second-place finish behind Revved Up here three weeks earlier in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup. That was Silver Tree's third runner-up finish in his last four starts, dating back to his near miss behind Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap on Aug. 1. Silver Tree also finished second, beaten a neck by Host, in the 2004 Tropical Turf.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Tropical Turf a year ago with Host, runs Icy Atlantic, a hard-knocking but somewhat unlucky colt who is winless in seven starts this year. Icy Atlantic was a distant runner-up to Hotstufanthensome in the Cliff Hanger.

"I think the course that night was the softest they've ever run a turf race on in North America," Pletcher quipped. "It was a quagmire, which only one horse, the winner, really seemed to handle. And in his last start Icy Atlantic got caught in a jackpot he never got out of. He's had a little hard luck this year, but he fits with most of the horses in this field, and on his best day should be capable of beating anyone in here."

Saint Stephen has not started since finishing sixth, beaten just three lengths in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on June 11, and might be the biggest question mark in the race. The much-improved Saint Stephen had won his previous three starts, and his trainer, Christophe Clement, won this race in 1999 with Hibernian Rhapsody.

Keep Cool, a 1 1/8-mile specialist and two-time stakes winner here this year, tops the local contingent, which also includes Bob's Proud Moment and Supervisor.