10/19/2013 5:26PM

Belmont Park: King Kreesa shows new dimension in winning Mohawk

Barbara D. Livingston
King Kreesa and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. win the Mohawk Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – At about the time that King Kreesa was entering the starting gate for Saturday’s $200,000 Mohawk Stakes, his trainer, Jeremiah Englehart was in church, attending the baptism of his twins, C.J. and Anna.

But his prayers surely were answered when the star of his stable showed a new dimension, rallying from off the pace to a 1 1/4-length victory over Lubash in the co-feature on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

King Kreesa has been at his best when allowed to relax on the lead, a running style that led to back-to-back victories this season in the Kingston and Grade 3 Poker at Belmont as well as his game second-place finish behind reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Fourstardave.

So, his connections and backers couldn’t be blamed for having some anxious moments during the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile Mohawk after King Kreesa was outrun for the lead by longshot Abilio.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. wisely allowed King Kreesa to settle in behind Abilio and track the pace for six furlongs. King Kreesa moved readily to take command leaving the final turn, quickly edged clear, then had plenty left to resist a bid from Lubash through the stretch.

Notacatbutallama, the only 3-year-old in the lineup, trailed early after stumbling while leaving the gate and rallied belatedly to finish third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Lubash.

King Kreesa is a homebred son of King Cugat owned by Gerald and Susan Kresa. He paid $6.20 as the favorite in a field of 11 New York-breds. 

“It’s good to know he doesn’t have to have the lead to win – that’s fantastic ” Gerald Kresa said.

“He relaxed pretty well today,” Ortiz said. “He ran like he was in front. I talked with the trainer today and saw there was speed in the race and had a plan in mind to sit second or third if we had to, and it worked for us.”

Kresa said he and Englehart would await word on whether King Kreesa would receive an invitation to the rich Hong Kong Mile, to be run Dec. 8.