Kharafa leads all the way in Ashley T. Cole (NYB)
By Jon Forbes | 09/15/2013 06:41 PM ET
Kharafa set a comfortable pace and held off a late charge from Lubash to win the $150,000 Ashley T. Cole for New York-breds 3-years-old and up by a head as the favorite on Sunday at Belmont Park.
Leaving from post 1 in the 1 1/8-mile turf race, Kharafa set fractions of 24.97 seconds for a quarter-mile and 49.46 for a half while racing on a clear lead. Hear the Footsteps and Idle American lined up outside Kharafa to offer challenges on the run into the stretch before the pacesetter once again emerged as the leader nearing the eighth pole.
In the final sixteenth, 2012 Ashley T. Cole winner Lubash emerged as a late threat on the outside, but the finish line came in time for Kharafa, who completed the distance on the inner turf course in 1:49.21. It was an additional half-length back to third-place finisher Hear the Footsteps.
"Most of the horses in the race were come-from-behind horses," said winning jockey Javier Castellano. "It worked out perfect because a mile and an eighth on the inner turf on the inside, the rail was good. He was able to relax and get comfortable. In the beginning, he wanted to go right to the lead and I just kept him going nice and easy and put up good fractions. In my mind, I had to be careful of [Lubash]; he's a come-from-behind horse and a really nice horse. That's exactly what happened. I got lucky, my horse took me all the way to the wire."
It was the first stakes victory for Kharafa, a 4-year-old gelded son of Kitalpha who returned $5.40 for a $2 win wager. He was second in the Kingston in June and won an entry-level allowance in July at Belmont, and entered the Ashley T. Cole off a third in the West Point presented by Trustco Bank on August 15 at Saratoga Race Course.
"We gave him time when we needed to give him time," said Timothy Hills, who trains Kharafa for the Estate of Lawrence Durocher, Jr. "He ran in December and we turned him out for a couple of months in Ocala, and he came back stronger than ever. He's one of those horses who maintains his form."
Hills said Kharafa likely will make his next start in the $200,000 Mohawk for New York-breds on October 19 at Belmont.
With his Ashley T. Cole victory, Kharafa improved his record to 5-5-2 in 16 starts and earned $90,000. He has banked $334,430 to date.
Compliance Officer, who won the 2011 Ashley T. Cole, finished fourth and was followed home by Majestic Raffy, Hangover Kid, Idle American, and Awesome Vision. Ampersand and main-track-only entrant Most Happy Fella were scratched.