Updated on 09/17/2011 11:35PM

Spruce Run home after 2 road wins


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Spruce Run hit the road to find his best form of the season.

The 7-year-old carries a two-stakes winning streak into the Grade 3, $150,000 Cliff Hanger at 1 1/16 miles on the turf Saturday night at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

The Cliff Hanger, the final graded stakes of the meet, was originally scheduled for Oct. 14. It was postponed when a severe rainstorm wiped out the week of racing at the Big M.

Even before the rain came, turf opportunities were limited in New Jersey, with no grass racing for most of September because of the course renovation at Monmouth Park.

, trained by Linda Rice, headed to Mountaineer Park and won the Labor Day Stakes before capturing the Grade 3 Robert F. Carey Memorial at Hawthorne on Sept. 24.

"He went into both races very well," said Sam Randazzo, Rice's assistant in New Jersey. "That's why we kept going on with him. Hopefully he will continue to do well and we can run him a couple of more times this year."

Randazzo credits jockey Rex Stokes III with a pair of heady rides in the victories.

Stokes, based at Mountaineer, was aboard for the first time on Labor Day and kept Spruce Run about five lengths off a speed duel.

In Chicago, Stokes laid Spruce Run closer to the leaders in a paceless race. Spruce Run got up by a neck over the favored Fort Prado for the upset at 14-1.

"He rode a very smart race at Mountaineer by being as far off as he was," Randazzo said of Stokes, who has the return call for the Cliff Hanger. "He was very smart to be right there at Hawthorne."

Spruce Run was the pacesetter in this race last year and wound up fifth.

"We're going to have to trust our rider and trust the horse," Randazzo said when asked about strategy. "Obviously this kid Stokes has a little clock in his head. My instructions to him before the Mountaineer race were to be not too far off the pace. I'm glad he didn't listen, because he knew how fast they were going. He made very good choices in both races."

The field also includes Hotstufanthensome, the winner of the Elkwood Stakes this summer at Monmouth, and Dr. Kashnikow, who captured the Cliff Hanger last year.