It took Al Khali five tries, but he finally got his graded stakes score Sept. 6 at Saratoga, running down the two pacesetters in mid-stretch and taking the $107,000 Saranac (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) by 1 1/4 lengths.
A 3-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro , Al Khali was making just his second start for Bill Mott and entered the race off a solid third-place effort in the Aug. 14 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at the Spa. Briefly on the Triple Crown trail earlier in the season while racing for Todd Pletcher, Al Khali was moved to the turf in June. As a 2-year-old, he raced in Peru.
Under the handling of Kent Desormeaux, Al Khali raced mid-pack in the 1 3/16-mile Saranac while 3-2 favorite Sal the Barber took the field through fractions of :23.54, :48.13, and 1:11.92 under Ramon Dominguez. Reservoir pressed the pace with Al Khali and Blank Check never far back.
Sal the Barber still held his narrow advantage when making the final turn, but Reservoir edged in front in upper stretch. The Sky Classic gelding clung to his lead as long as he could, but Al Khali roared on by approaching the sixteenth-pole and was wrapped up by Desormeaux before crossing the wire in a final time of 1:53-flat on a turf course rated “firm.”
"It looked like a two horse race to me, with (Al Khali) and (No. 5) Sal the Barber," Desormeaux said. "I just wanted to make sure we didn’t make any donations. I wanted to keep my horse close and keep Sal the Barber honest and everything did work out very well. It was a good, honest pace and my horse was very comfortable.
"My horse was behind the field in reserve and when I presented (Al Khali), he took off with a beautiful turn of foot."
Al Khali earned his only previous victory of 2009 in his season debut March 9 in allowance company at Gulfstream Park. He ran off the board in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) at Hawthorne and Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont before being moved to the grass. The bay improved to 4-2-1 from 10 starts with earnings of $140,724.
"I knew he ran well over this course," said Mott, who did not immediately know where Al Khali would go next. "The weather was pretty good, and I wanted to take a chance here. He accelerated nicely today and closed off a relatively slow pace. It looked like he accelerated nicely in his last race, but he had a little bit of traffic trouble."
Bred in Kentucky by Emory Hamilton, Al Khali is out of the Capote mare Maya. He is owned by Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable.
The winner paid $5.40, $3.60, and $3.10. The exacta (6-2) returned $67, and the trifecta (6-2-4) was $350.