Kharafa, Old Harbor steal the spotlight at Belmont Park
Sent off at 2-1 and 3-1, respectively, neither was favored but still got the job done in easy fashion.
Kharafa faced a familiar foe in Sunday’s Ashley T. Cole, as popular New York-bred sensation Lubash lined up as the defending champion of the 1 1/8-mile inner turf contest. That eight-year-old veteran tracked in second as More Zen Tea led the way through :25.62, :50.88 and 1:15.55.
Kharafa bided his time on the outside in fourth and began his run rounding the turn. He drew even with More Zen Tea and Lubash, then slipped on by and pulled away to finish in 1:49.13 over the firm sod.
Runaway Posse rallied to take second by two lengths over Iron Power, with Lubash and More Zen Tea completing the field.
Kharafa got back to his winning ways in the Ashley T. Cole. The Tim Hills trainee triumphed in the Elkwood S. at Monmouth Park by a neck over Grade 1 winner Lochte, but finished a subpar seventh in the Oceanport S. (G3) next out at the track after being forced to check.
Kharafa actually earned his second Ashley T. Cole victory after taking the 2013 running as well. The six-year-old gelding has been going back and forth with Lubash ever since holding that rival to third by a half-length when running second in the 2013 Kingston S.
The son of Kitalpha has racked up six total stakes wins thus far and earned more than $800,000 while running for owners Paul Braverman and Timothy Pinch.
Later on Belmont’s Sunday program, Old Harbor tracked pacesetter Freudie Anne through the opening half-mile of the John Hettinger in :25.02 and :47.71, easily took over rounding the turn and drew away to stop the clock in 1:47.95 for nine furlongs on the firm inner turf.
The four-year-old daughter of Raffie’s Majesty, trained by Russell Cash for owner/breeder Joseph Bimbaum, earned just her second stakes victory in this spot. Old Harbor captured last year’s Cupecoy’s Joy division of the New York Stallion S. and boasts five stakes placings on her resume.
Kharafa photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography
Old Harbor photo courtesy of NYRA/Joe Labozzetta/Adam Coglianese Photography
ASHLEY T. COLE QUOTES:
Timothy Hills, winning trainer of Kharafa (No. 8): "I was surprised the way it came up. I handicapped the race and thought the (No.) 1 would be in front. I told Javier (Castellano), 'Don't let the 1 go out and walk the dog and you end up outside fighting him.' He looked at me funny in the paddock and I thought, 'OK.' The way it broke, he broke just a step slow and fell in and Javier covered him up. He was so relaxed, which is a problem we've had before with him getting rank. (Javier) had him relaxed nicely and he just exploded. I'm not going to give him instructions any more other than 'Good luck.'"
"You can't get the urge to push a New York-bred turf horse through the winter. We always put him away for the winter and bring him back. He'll have a couple more races then he'll go to the farm and we'll see you next year."
Javier Castellano, winning jockey aboard Kharafa (No. 8): "The one thing about the horse, he needs to relax and stay covered up. I think he's the kind of horse that if you chase horses or go to the lead, he loses power. He'll lose his kick. He had always dictated the pace but I learned something in April at Keeneland. That day he missed the break and I covered him up and he came from off the pace; he gave me a big kick and finished great. I think that's the best style for him. Today really surprised me. There wasn't much speed in the race, and he missed the break, but he was so kind behind the horses. He was laid back, off the bridle, just followed the other horses in a nice, good rhythm. Turning for home, I just asked a little bit, pushed the button, and he just took off. He's amazing. To ask and see a horse respond like that is an advantage."
JOHN HETTINGER QUOTES:
Miguel Santiago, assistant to winning trainer Russell Cash of Old Harbor (No. 1): "This filly always gives her all. She tries hard and is an absolutely stunning horse. Every time she comes up here she gives her all; her performance speaks for itself. She seems to have a liking for this turf course."
"When I saw the fractions - the half went in (:49.71) - it was a slow pace. That's an open gallop for her; she's a big girl. I just thought at that point if she had anything left she would absolutely accelerate from there, and she did. She had a good turn of foot."
Elvis Trujillo, winning jockey aboard Old Harbor (No. 1): "It was a perfect race. The speed went (to the front), I sat down behind and I could feel that the pace was really slow. Turning for home, I asked and the horse kicked. I could see the TV and saw nobody was coming and my horse wasn't stopping. She just kept going."