09/13/2013 2:35PM

Belmont Park: Kharafa back on favorite course for Ashley T. Cole

Barbara D. Livingston
Kharafa (right), third in the West Point last month, has been in the exacta in 6 of 7 turf starts at Belmont, including three victories.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Tim Hills hopes a return to his favorite turf course and a change in tactics help Kharafa earn his first stakes victory in Sunday’s $150,000 Ashley T. Cole Stakes for New York-breds.

The Ashley T. Cole, run at 1 1/8 miles, features the last two winners of the Cole, Compliance Officer (2011) and Lubash (2012) in addition to West Point winner Hangover Kid.

Kharafa has 3 wins and 3 seconds from 7 starts over Belmont’s turf course. In June, he finished second to leading New York-bred turf horse King Kreesa in the Kingston before winning an open-company allowance race here in July. Most recently, Kharafa finished third in the West Point to Hangover Kid, a race in which Kharafa made a premature move to the lead under Rajiv Maragh.

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“My rider gunned him a little bit because he was concerned about the outside post and then he got rank,” Hills said. “The horse on the lead parked him, so my rider made the decision to go on with it and moved way too early.”

Hills has decided to go to Javier Castellano, who rode Kharafa to a 5 3/4-length victory at Aqueduct last fall.

The biggest concern Hills has is the 1 1/8-mile distance, which Kharafa is trying for the first time.

“I think he can get the trip if the race unfolds the right way and he’s ridden properly,” Hills said.

Compliance Officer is trying to regain the form that made him the New York-bred turf champion of 2011, which included a 3 1/2-length victory in this race. He was beaten a head by Lubash in this race last year before going to the sidelines with an ankle injury. In the spring, he popped a splint bone, which sidelined him again. He returned to the races Aug. 26, finishing third in an open-company optional claimer going a mile at Saratoga. He returns to Belmont, where he has won 7 of 16 starts.

“He really came out of that race good,” said Bruce Brown, trainer of Compliance Officer. “It was almost like a couple of breezes. Definitely a mile and an eighth on this track is right up his alley.”

Lubash won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy here in May, but has lost three in a row and has become a bit difficult in his training and demeanor, according to trainer Christophe Clement.

“I think the horse is doing good, but mentally he’s not an easy horse to train,” Clement said.

Hangover Kid comes off a win in the West Point at Saratoga after finishing third in the Grade 1 United Nations. On Thursday, trainer Jason Servis said he was thinking of scratching. On Friday, Servis said he plans to run.

Hear the Footsteps has three wins and a second to Hangover Kid in his last four starts and will try to stretch out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time for trainer Linda Rice.

Awesome Vision, a stakes winner on dirt, tries turf for the first time. Majestic Raffy, Ampersand, and Idle American complete the field.