by Sarah Mace
Paul Braverman and Timothy Pinch’s Kharafa (Kitalpha), sent off as 6-5 favorite to go one mile on the turf while making his Monmouth Park debut in Saturday’s $75,000 Elkwood Stakes, experienced a nail-biting trip for his connections and backers – checked multiple times and in tight into late stretch – but in the end pulled off the improbable victory by the margin of a neck.
Breaking mid-pack from post seven in the 11-horse field, Kharafa, usually closer to the pace, settled well back in eighth through swift early splits set by Plainview (22.03, 45.16) and got a groundsaving trip through the clubhouse turn.
Continuing at the rail along the backstretch run, but surrounded by horses as the pack tightened up, the 6-year-old gelding suffered his first serious check in the middle of the ruck early on the far turn, losing momentum and ground.
Recovering his stride, Kharafa passed several rivals as he swung out entering the stretch, but ended up in fifth with walls of horseflesh in front and around him and three lengths still to make up.
Desperately looking for a seam in mid-stretch under jockey Paco Lopez and having to check again with a furlong to go, Kharafa and his pilot finally saw the seas part, gamely squeezed though and in a blanket finish involving the first six finishers got a neck in front by the wire. After three-quarters of a mile in 1:09.51, Kharafa stopped the clock after a mile at 1:34.39. [VIDEO]
Lopez said, “I didn’t think I would ever find a hole, but finally there was an opening and he just went on through. I kept him down on the inside the whole way. I didn’t want to get caught wide, so I had to sit and wait and luckily it all worked out.”
Conditioner Tim Hills said, “I was sick to my stomach as they came around the far turn. He had to check a few times and somehow found a small spot to go and got there just in time.”
Added Hills, “He has been training well here since he was a 2-year-old and this is the first time we ran him at Monmouth. He just knows how to get to the wire first.” The conditioner indicated that he will look next to the Grade 3 Oceanport on Haskell Day, August 2.
Kharafa, who won a Keeneland allowance in his seasonal debut and came within a length of Lubash in a runner-up finish in the Mohawk on May 25, has five turf stakes victories on his resume, two in open company and three in the tough New York-bred turf male division. From 28 career starts, his record stands at ten wins, eight second and four thirds, with earnings amounting to $756,137.
Kharafa was bred, and campaigned in the first part of his career by Lawrence Durocher, Jr. After Durocher passed in 2013, Kharafa won the Ashley T. Cole for Durocher’s estate and was then was sold by Durocher’s daughter Kate to Boston investment manager Paul Braverman.
Foaled at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, Kharafa issues from the first North American crop of Kitalpha, a full brother to Kingmambo. Kharafa’s unraced dam Exquisite Cassie (King of Kings [IRE]), who is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winning New York-bred Lovely Amanda ($376,450), has produced one other winner.
Sold to Chadds Ford Stables for $20,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December Mixed sale, Exquisite Cassie currently has a juvenile full sister to Kharafa named Saratoga Sassy who is a registered New York-bred. The mare also has produced a yearling colt by E Dubai, and a weanling colt by Union Rags.