05/30/2013 4:38PM

Belmont Park: Lubash the danger off Grade 3 score


The biggest fields among Saturday’s seven New York-bred stakes are the pair of $125,000, one-mile races scheduled for the Widener turf: the Mount Vernon for fillies and mares, which drew 12 meant for grass, and the Kingston, which attracted nine older males including Lubash and Street Game, the second and third finishers from last year’s renewal.

Street Game has done most of his best racing on turf at Belmont for trainer Phil Serpe, going back to a front-running victory in the 2011 Hill Prince as a 3-year-old. He caught most bettors by surprise in his seasonal bow at Aqueduct, when he led throughout to register a 12-1 upset over Lubash, who was also making his first start of the year.

Lubash returned in the Fort Marcy and rallied from next-to-last to win the Grade 3 race in 1:38.89, which shattered the stakes record and was just .36 seconds off the 1 1/16-mile course mark.

“Really nice horse, very honest, always tries,” said his trainer, Christophe Clement, who has saddled four stakes winners at the meet.

Lubash is the 9-5 morning-line choice in the wake of that career-best performance, but picks up five pounds and must break from the far outside, so he has little margin for error.

The up-and-comer in the field is Kharafa, who came into his own toward the end of last year for trainer Tim Hills, winning two allowance races and concluding his sophomore season with a close second in the El Prado Stakes against open company at Gulfstream Park, for which he earned a Beyer Figure of 95.

“The race at Gulfstream was really strong,” said Hills. “That was the race that convinced us to give him a little break over the winter and plan for a long campaign in New York this year.”

Kharafa returned earlier at the meet against open optional claimers, and finished strongly only to run out of ground and settle for second.

The pace of the Kingston projects to be lively, as the speedy pair of Abilio and King Kreesa, break from the two innermost stalls.

Lightning Stone, Minnie Punt (the 2010 Kingston winner) and Sneaky Kitten complete the field.

Shakeira keeps it tight

In the Mount Vernon, the hard-knocking mare Shakeira is the morning-line choice to gain her first stakes victory.

A rare claim by Chad Brown on Jan. 1, 2012, Shakeira won four races by less than a length through the rest of the year, along with a runner-up finish in the Ticonderoga. She picked up where she left off at Aqueduct recently, when she was along in the final strides to beat open optional claimers by a half-length.

Kibosh may have disliked yielding going when fourth in the Ticonderoga, but she has since been in the best form of her career for John Kimmel. Since last summer at Saratoga, she has won or placed in seven of eight starts on firm turf, capped by a second most recently against Grade 1 winner Dayatthespa.

Yes It’s Pink has won three straight for Christophe Clement, and makes her stakes debut after finishing with a flourish to win first time out this year.

The early pace will likely be contested among Manero, a wire-to-wire winner at Aqueduct second time back from a layoff for Phil Serpe; and Princess Mara, who is back quickly after becoming one of four first-off-the-claim winners for David Jacobson a week ago Thursday.

Also in the main body are Dreaming of Cara, Inimitable Romanee, Lady Candidate, Lady’s Lunar Luck, and Schillerette.