Kharafa added a second edition of the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole to his resume and Old Harbor won the $125,000 John Hettinger in a pair of New York-bred stakes races that highlighted Sunday's card at Belmont Park.
The narrow second choice between longtime rival and post time favorite Lubash, Kharafa was reserved in fourth through the early going as long shot More Zen Tea set moderate fractions of 25.62, 50.88 and 1:15.55 over the firm turf. Moving up quickly when given his cue by jockey Javier Castellano, Kharafa swung widest of all into the stretch and charged into the lead with a furlong to go, hitting the wire two lengths in front of Runaway Posse.
Iron Power was another two lengths back, followed by Lubash and More Zen Tea.
"He had always dictated the pace but I learned something in April [in a come-from-behind win] at Keeneland," said Castellano of Kharafa, who customarily runs much closer to the pace. "That day he missed the break and I covered 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."
Kharafa's time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.13.
"The way it broke, he broke just a step slow and fell in and Javier covered him up," said Timothy Hills, who trains the 6-year-old Kharafa for Paul Braverman and Timothy Pinch. "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'."
The win was the third in five starts this year for Kharafa, who won the Elkwood in July at his home base at Monmouth Park in addition to the allowance at Keeneland. Overall, his record stands at 11-8-4 from 30 starts, including the 2013 editions of the Ashley T. Cole, and the winner's purse of $75,000 extended his earnings to $825,137.
He returned $6 for a $2 win bet.
In the John Hettinger, Old Harbor closely tracked Freudie Anne through fractions of 25.02, 49.70 andbefore moving up to collar the pacesetter on the turn and pull away to win by 3 ½ widening lengths.
"When I saw the [slow early] fractions ... I just thought at that point if she had anything left she would absolutely accelerate from there, and she did," said Miguel Santiago, assistant to winning trainer Russell Cash. "She had a good turn of foot."
Old Harbor's time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:47.95.
"It was a perfect race," said winning jockey Elvis Trujillo. "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."
It was the second victory of 2015 for Old Harbor, a 4-year-old Raffie's Majesty filly who entered the race off a close-up second to Hettinger favorite The Tea Cups in last month's Yaddo.
Sent off at 5-2, she returned $8.70 for a $2 win bet and with the winner's purse of $75,000 now has amassed $395,405 for owner Joseph Birnbaum. Overall, her record stands at 5-4-3 from 16 career starts.
The Tea Cups was along for second with Selenite checking in third. Unbelievable Dream, Freudie Anne, Chrysolite and Saythreehailmarys completed the order of finish.
Source: NYRA Communications (Jenny Kellner)