08/23/2013 1:24PM

Monmouth Park: Howe Great gets a break with post spot in Cliff Hanger

Barbara D. Livingston
Howe Great was considered for the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga, but trainer Rick Mettee opted for Monmouth.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – An inside post in a smaller field should enhance Howe Great’s chances on Sunday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes on turf at Monmouth Park. The final major grass race of the meet drew seven runners for the 1 1/16-mile contest.

Howe Great figures to vie for the role of favorite with Summer Front, winner of the Grade 3 Miami Mile Handicap at Calder in his latest effort.

Hudson Steele, from the Todd Pletcher barn, also will garner support following his third-place finish in the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes here last month.

The post improvement could be the key for Howe Great, a 4-year-old Team Valor International runner now trained by Rick Mettee at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

[CLIFF HANGER: Get PPs, watch Monmouth’s Sunday card live]

Howe Great landed the 3 post for the Cliff Hanger, a vast improvement over his 10 hole in the Oceanport.

In the Oceanport, there was no catching Silver Max, the impressive pacesetting winner. Howe Great and jockey Alan Garcia were hung wide in the early stages of that race before launching a rally to finish second. Howe Great was clearly the best of the rest while finishing 5 3/4 lengths behind Silver Max.

With a better post, Howe Great might have narrowed that gap at the end.

“Given the draw, Alan did a really good job with him,” Mettee said. “He really didn’t lose as much ground as you would have thought. With a little better draw, I think we probably cut the margin on Silver Max, but I don’t think we would have beaten him. The trip was probably the best-case scenario, given the draw.”

Mettee said the choices after the Oceanport were the Cliff Hanger or the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 31.

“We just decided that while this would be a tough race, this would be a little bit easier top to bottom than the Bernard Baruch,” Mettee said. “He’s had two good races over the course, and we’re confident we’re going to get a good race out of him. From the 3 hole, we should pull a pretty good trip.”

Garcia has the return call on Howe Great, who won the Jersey Derby here last summer.

While Summer Front has been off since late April, trainer Christophe Clement has kept him on edge with a series of sharp turf workouts at Saratoga.

Joe Bravo will be aboard.

Tune Me In, Sleepless Knight, Hobo Ridge, and Fire Alarm complete the field.

Lady’s Secret has standout

Summer Applause looks like the standout in the supporting stakes, the $75,000 Lady’s Secret for fillies and mares.

A winner of three graded stakes, Summer Applause was no match for multiple Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta last time out in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap at 1 1/4 miles.

The cutback to a 1 1/16 miles for the Lady’s Secret and the class drop figures to make Summer Applause the odds-on favorite for the team of Bravo and trainer Chad Brown, who combined last Sunday to win Monmouth’s Grade 3 Iselin Stakes with Last Gunfighter.