Eldaafer, claimed for $20,000 earlier this year, came with a late stretch run and pulled off a 17-1 shocker in the $198,500 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) June 5 on the slop at Belmont Park.
A 4-year-old gelded son of A.P. Indy, Eldaafer was making his graded stakes debut and first start for new trainer Diane Alvarado. His last two starts, including an allowance score on April 3, came on the sloppy going as well, which may have helped his cause. Alvarado also removed blinkers for this race.
Eldaafer, who carried 114 pounds, was well back for most of 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn while Nite Light, Fierce Wind, Rising Moon, and Delosvientos were all part of the early pace scenario. Delosvientos had a rough start and was taken four-wide on the first turn by Eibar Coa. He was rushed up to take a short lead after a half-mile in :49.02, but quickly retreated and was eventually eased.
Edward Evans’ Nite Light and Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Rising Moon were the front-runners the rest of the way, and they hit the quarter-pole together and were still heads apart at the top of the stretch. Nite Light finally got the better of his rival inside the sixteenth-pole, but Eldaafer, who was on the rail when they straightened away, but eventually drifted wide under Jorge Chavez, took dead aim at the leader in deep stretch. He got up in the final jump to win by a nose.
The final time on a sloppy, sealed track was 2:31.58. Nite Light settled for second under John Velazquez, 2 1/2 lengths better than 8-5 favorite Rising Moon and Garrett Gomez.
“We took the blinkers off,” said 30-year-old Alvarado, who is based at Delaware Park and took her trainer's license out only a few months ago. “He likes to stalk. He has to have things his way. Jorge Chavez rode a good race – we all rode him to the wire. His owner was very confident and even said he was going to kiss any horse who finished in front of him – I was confident, but I wasn’t going to kiss any horse.”
Eldaafer was bred by his initial owners, Shadwell Farm, and was first trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. He won just once in four starts for those connections before being plucked out of a $20,000 claimer on Jan. 23, a race he won by 7 1/2 lengths, by trainer John Toscano Jr., for Richard DeMarco and Vincent Mansour's Alghuwayriyah Stable. The dark bay won three of five starts for Toscano. He ran third in his most recent outing, the May 7 Nasty and Bold Stakes at Belmont, and was handed to Alvarado, who was most recently an assistant for David Jacobson in Florida.
Eldaafer, who is out of the Tabasco Cat mare Habibti, is now 5-0-2 from 10 starts with earnings of $231,392.
The winner paid $36.20, $12.80 and $5.40. The exacta (3-12) returned $170 and the trifecta (3-2-9) was $874.