Building on recent strong performances in New York, but overlooked by bettors in the field of 13 horses three and up lined up to run a mile on turf in Saturday’s $75,000 El Prado Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Lawrence A. Durocher, Jr.’s Kharafa, finished a strong second behind multiple stakes winner and Grade 2-placed Nikki’s Sandcastle.
Guided by jockey Edgar Prado to the rail soon after the breaking from post four, 17-1 Kharafa enjoyed a groundsaving trip through the clubhouse turn and along the backstretch, racing in sixth position about four lengths behind Xin Xu Lin, who showed the way for the first half-mile in 46.22.
Moving up to join the vanguard, and still hugging the rail round the far turn, Kharafa was pressed for running room in upper stretch, but found a seam, dove back to the rail and outkicked 2-1 favorite and new leader Salto.
In the final strides Nikki’s Sandcastle, moving five-wide from the rear of the pack, drove home for the victory by three-quarters of a length. Kharafa crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths clear of Salto. The winner’s final time for the mile over the firm turf course was 1:34.48 for a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.
Since breaking his maiden in his turf debut in his second (and final start) at two, and after shaking off the rust following a winter freshening, 3-year-old Kharafa has had a series of strong turf outings dating back to July for trainer Tim Hills
Hitting the board in six of his last seven starts Kharafa passed through his state-bred conditions, most recently scoring a second level allowance victory by open lengths going 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf at Aqueduct on November 30. Kharafa’s second-place finish in the El Prado improves his record to 3-3-1 from eleven starts and brings his earnings total to $142,830.
Bred by High Meadow Farm, Kharafa issues from the first North American crop of Kitalpha, a full brother to Kingmambo, who moved to Kentucky in 2008 after siring six crops in Zimbabwe and unfortunately died of cancer in September 2012.
Kharafa’s unraced dam Exquisite Cassie (King of Kings [IRE]), a half sister to multiple stakes-winning New York-bred Lovely Amanda ($376,450), last changed hands via public auction when she sold to SunFire Farm for $20,000 at the 2005 Keeneland November sale.
Exquisite Cassie has produced one other winner from one other foal to start. Currently she has a 2-year-old colt by Defrere (Larry’s Bentley) who has not started, a yearling colt by the same sire (Noa’s Engine) and was bred back last spring to Kitalpha.