The $200,000 Mohawk Stakes at Belmont Park, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up Oct. 19, attracted an oversubscribed field that includes the top three finishers from the Ashley T. Cole Stakes—Kharafa, Lubash, and Hear the Footsteps—as well as King Kreesa, who will be making his first start against New York-breds since winning the June 1 Kingston Stakes at Belmont Park; and Notacatbutallama, whose connections won't make a final decision on whether he'll run until closer to race day.
In the Sept. 15 Ashley T. Cole at Belmont, Kharafa set the pace and dug in to hold off 2013 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. III) winner Lubash by a head and post his first stakes victory. It was a half-length back to Hear the Footsteps in third.
"He's at his best stalking," said trainer Timothy Hills, who trains Kharafa for the estate of Lawrence Durocher Jr. "In New York the stretches are so long, and it seems like almost every pacesetter gets passed in the stretch.
"In the Ashley T. Cole, you couldn't find any other speed in the race even if you used your imagination, so he ended up on the lead and was given a brilliant ride by (Javier) Castellano. King Kreesa is in this field, so this time we'll definitely have a target to follow."
Kharafa, 7-2, drew post 10 with Castellano in the irons.
After capturing the Kingston, King Kreesa became a graded stakes winner when he took Belmont's July 4 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT). He followed that performance with a second to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 10 at Saratoga Race Course and will be cutting back in distance Saturday after finishing a distant seventh in the 1 1/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) Sept. 28.
Irad Ortiz Jr. will guide King Kreesa, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, from post 8.
Another horse who brings graded stakes form into the race is Notacatbutallama, whose five added-money wins include triumphs in Belmont's Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Saratoga's National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 9. In his two most recent starts, he was second in the Sept. 1 Saranac Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga and fourth in Belmont's Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) Oct. 5.
Because there are only two weeks between the Jamaica and the Mohawk, trainer Todd Pletcher said he and owner Mike Repole will assess how Notacatbutallama trains during the next few days before making a final decision about whether the 3-year-old will start in the Mohawk.
"It's back on short rest, but we have a five-day entry so we can watch him train a few days," said Pletcher of Notacatbutallama, 6-1 on the morning line.
"We like what we are seeing so far. He's a pretty hardy horse and he bounces back pretty quickly, so if he continues to show us good energy then we'll probably run."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the call aboard Notacatbutallama from post 11.
Patsy C. Symons 3-year-old filly Effie Trinket will attempt to win her second stakes against her elders when she competes in Belmont's $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes Oct. 19, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up.
In July, Effie Trinket took the Diamondrella overnight stakes at Belmont, then was second in the restricted Aug. 10 Auntie Mame Stakes at Saratoga. Both races were open to all 3-year-old fillies.
She took on New York-bred fillies and mares in her most recent start, surging late to win Belmont's John Hettinger Stakes by a neck Sept. 15.
After the Hettinger, trainer Rick Violette decided to run Effie Trinket in the Ticonderoga rather than the listed Pebbles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Oct. 14.
"The Pebbles was an intriguing spot," said Violette. "There are a lot of stakes winners in it. There was a grade I winner (Discreet Marq) in it. In the Ticonderoga I actually have to give older horses weight, which I wasn't really happy about. We're spotting most of them three pounds.
"It was kind of 'pick your poison.' She has already beaten most of those fillies (entered in the Ticonderoga). She's doing terrific, and I hope it's the same result as last time. You can do anything with her. She can be on the lead if there is no pace. She can be covered up. She can press. There is nothing she can't do."
Luis Saez will ride Effie Trinket, 3-1, from the rail.
$200,000 Mowhawk Stakes (Race 10, approximate post time 5:13 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up foaled in New York, 1 1/16 miles (Turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hear the Footsteps (NY), J L Ortiz, 119, L Rice
2. Compliance Officer (NY), A O Solis, 119, B R Brown
3. Idle American (NY), P Teator, 117, P J Kelly
4. Mission Approved (NY), A S Arroyo, 119, N Chatterpaul
5. Barrel of Love (NY), L Saez, 119, J O Hertler
6. Lubash (NY), J Alvarado, 123, C Clement
7. Majestic Raffy (NY), A Lezcano, 119, J Aquilino
8. King Kreesa (NY), I Ortiz, Jr., 123, J C Englehart
9. Fox Rules (NY), P A Rodriguez, 117, M A Ferraro
10. Kharafa (NY), J Castellano, 123, T A Hills
11. Notacatbutallama (NY), J R Velazquez, 120, T A Pletcher
12. Abilio (NY), J Lezcano, 119, T Albertrani
13. Jonrah (NY) (AE), C H Velasquez, 117, D Frisco
14. Sandyinthesun (NY), E S Prado, 117, R G Davis
15. Hidden Vow (NY), J Alvarado, 117, P J Quick
Main Track Only:
16. Most Happy Fella (NY), A O Solis, 118, R E Schosberg
Blinkers On: Compliance Officer, Jonrah
$200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes (Race 8, approximate post time 4:05 p.m.)fillies and mares, 3YO & Up, foaled in New York, 1 1/16 miles (Turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Effie Trinket (NY), L Saez, 120, R A Violette, Jr.
2. Sally's Dream (NY), R Maragh, 117, R Persaud
3. Inimitable Romanee (NY), J R Velazquez, 117, H G Motion
4. Lady's Lunar Luck (NY), J Alvarado, 117, J C Kimmel
5. Shakeira (NY), J Castellano, 121, C C Brown
6. Harbor Mist (NY), J Lezcano, 117, P M Serpe
7. Dreaming of Cara (NY), J Rosario, 117, M E Friedman
8. Mystic City (NY), P A Rodriguez, 117, M A Ferraro
9. Frosty Bay (NY), J L Ortiz, 118, D Schettino
10. Wholelottashakin (NY), I Ortiz, Jr., 117, T M Bush
Main Track Only:
11. Mischief Maker (NY), J Castellano, 123, B R Brown