Making his first start off the $35,000 claim for Mike Maker, Scarlet Stable's
King David sprang a 28-1 upset in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000
Handicap at Belmont Park, shocking such accomplished rivals as Summer Front,
Cogito and Dullahan.
The son of Japanese champion Hat Trick wore down another longshot, 23-1 King Kreesa, to prevail by a half-length. King David fueled mutuels of $58, $18.80 and $6.70, and the pair of "Kings" sparked a $370 exacta.
King Kreesa set slow fractions of :25 4/5, :52 1/5 and 1:18 on the good inner turf. Howe Great tracked in second, and Rosie Napravnik had King David parked in third. Summer Front, 8-5 favorite Dullahan and slow-starting English invader Cogito were all reserved off the pace, while Shkspeare Shaliyah trailed. The farther the field made its way around the circuit, the more Dullahan looked unhappy in the conditions, and it was soon apparent that the favorite wouldn't land a blow.
Summer Front, however, had plenty of run left in him swinging into the stretch. But as he tried to sneak through along the rail, King Kreesa held his ground. The door was closed on Summer Front, who had to check off heels and effectively lost his chance.
In contrast, King David had nothing but clear sailing on the outside. Ultimately overhauling the longtime leader, the reformed claimer completed nine furlongs in 1:52 4/5 and extended his winning streak to five.
"I assumed I probably would get a stalking trip," Napravnik said, "and we sat in a great spot. I was able to save ground on the first turn. The turf is a little bit soft, so I took him to the outside. He just put in a very game effort. He's a horse I've been on a few times on the morning, and I always loved the way he went. He has a great demeanor, and he tried as much as he could."
King Kreesa held second by three-quarters of a length from the unlucky Summer Front. After a gap of 2 3/4 lengths came the disappointing Cogito, followed by the similarly subpar Dullahan, and Shkspeare Shaliyah just edged the trailer Howe Great. Unbridled Command was scratched.
Dullahan's jockey Joel Rosario cited the course condition as a factor in his dull effort.
"It looked to me like he had a little hard time (with the ground), "Rosario said. "He was fine early, and when I rode him he tried to pick it up, but maybe it's a little slippery."
In the wake of this successful stakes debut, King David improved his scorecard to 11-6-1-0 and inflated his earnings to $333,435. The dark bay colt failed to hit the board in his first four starts in maiden special weight company, but broke through for a $25,000 tag in his first try for trainer Larry Rivelli. A close second next time out, he went on to win three in a row, all in claimers. Nick Canani haltered him for $25,000 out of an August 13 victory at Saratoga, but lost him in turn after he stayed hot on September 13 over this course.
Assistant trainer Pearl Hagadorn revealed that Maker had first tried to claim him in August.
"Mike saw this horse at Saratoga, and lost a shake (to claim him) there, so he claimed him at Belmont," Hagadorn said. "He looks for an athlete that he thinks can improve with his program, and he's brilliant at it. And then, Rosie put up a great ride."
Napravnik also commented on the astute claim.
"King David is a horse I breezed in Saratoga under a different trainer," the rider said. "Mike does such a good job with horses that he claims, and this is just a very good example. This horse ran awesome.
"I was on a private plane with Ramon (Dominguez) to New York last night. He had ridden the horse before and had won on him (in his last two starts), and we were just talking about the race he was running in. I said, 'You know what? Mike does this all the time. He's very good at turning it around, turning horses over, and doing a great job with them, especially on the turf.'"
Ironically, Dominguez is the regular rider of Summer Front, and had to watch his old mount get the better of him Saturday.
Bred by Ben Lengacher in Kentucky, King David is out of the unraced Gone West mare Storm West, who has also produced stakes victor Bertsgoldenmissile and Norwegian Group 3-placed Heureux. His third dam, French Group 2 queen Hortensia, is responsible for multiple Group 3 hero and dual classic-placed Glacial Storm as well as multiple Grade 3-placed stakes vixen Chaudennay. Other prominent descendants include current stakes-winning juvenile filly Baileys Jubilee, who recently placed third in the Group 1 Cheveley Park.