by Bill Heller
A bit disrespected by the bettors, Aliyu Ben J Stables’ eight-year-old grass millionaire home-bred Lubash unleashed an incredible late kick to win the 37th running of the $125,000 Kingston Stakes by a length and a quarter under Junior Alvarado on all New York-bred Showcase Day on Memorial Day Monday at Belmont Park. Sent off as the 4-1 third choice in the distinguished field of nine, Lubash won in 1:33.07 by running his last quarter mile in a shade over 22 seconds flat.
Kharafa, the 4-5 favorite under Javier Castellano, finished second, a long neck in front of front-running King Kreesa, who was ridden by Joel Rosario and went off at 7-2. Kharafa and King Kreesa are both six-year-olds.
Christophe Clement trains Lubash, a son of Freud out of Nasty Cure by Cure the Blues who was bred by Aliyuee Ben J Stable Inc.
These three New York-bred turf titans had met many times previously with mixed results as each had beaten the other two on separate occasions. In last year’s Kingston Stakes, Kharafa won by a length over Lubash. King Kreesa missed that engagement.
“It’s great for the New York-bred program,” Clement said. “They’re three really nice horses and all are very consistent. It’s nice that they last because fans get to know the horses and it’s fun for them.”
In the tale of the tape, at Belmont Park, King Kreesa was 5-for-12, Lubash 6-for-20 and Kharafa 6-for-13. At one mile, King Kreesa was 3-for-7, Lubash 2-for-12 and Kharafa 1-for-8. Collectively, Lubash, King Kreesa and Kharafa had earned $2.5 million. Combined with the other six horses in the Kingston, the Kingston field had amassed more than $4 million in earnings.
And, as they invariably do, King Kreesa, Lubash and Kharafa gave it their best. All three were making their second start of the year off useful preps. Kharafa won his, an open company allowance, by nearly four lengths as the 2-1 favorite. Lubash was third in an open $100,000 stakes. King Kreesa was sixth in a different open $100,000 stakes.
Breaking from the three post Monday, King Kreesa shot to the lead, while Castellano got Kharafa away second out of the nine post. Alvarado let Lubash alternate in third and fourth with 24-1 Captain Gaughen.
King Kreesa took the field to the quarter in :23.68 with a length and a quarter lead on Kharafa. King Kreesa stretched his lead to a length and a half in a :46.90 half-mile. Kharafa was still second, a length in front of Lubash, who had worked his way up to be a clear third.
Heading into the far turn, Kharafa got his cue from Castellano and made his bid for the lead. Alvarado moved Lubash three-wide, two lengths behind the top pair, for a clear shot after three-quarters in 1:10.46.
Kharafa took it to King Kreesa, but King Kreesa dug in as they dueled head-to-head. Behind them, Lubash was gaining with every stride. Lubash passed both his rivals with authority to win by a little more than a length. Kharafa out-gamed King Kreesa for second, but the bottom line was that these three turf stars delivered another incredible battle again.
“Turning for home, I had the chance to move him out, and when I asked him, he was there for me like he always is,” Alvarado said. “He gave me a nice kick and it was enough to get it done.”
Lubash is now 12-for-38 on grass with nine seconds and five thirds. He also has one win from three dirt starts and has now earned just under $1.1 million in his incredible career.
“Lubash is a nice horse; it’s not like he’s just a New York-bred,” Clement said. “I took him to Florida last year and he won a Grade 3. He can compete in open company. It just tells you how the New York-bred program has stepped up dramatically over the past few years.”