08/26/2016 7:25PM

King Kreesa by a nose in West Point Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
King Kreesa (No. 2) edges Kharafa for the win in the West Point Stakes on Friday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – When King Kreesa won the West Point Stakes in 2014, he did so off a 259-day layoff. On Friday, he won it again, this time running back in six days.

King Kreesa, fourth in the Grade 1 Fourstardave on Aug. 20, wheeled right back, overcame a half-step slow start to gain the lead quickly, and then held off a late charge from familiar foe Kharafa to win the West Point by a nose on New York Showcase Day at Saratoga.

It was a neck back to Offering Plan in third and another neck back to Tapitation, the 2-1 favorite, in fourth.

It was the 11th win and the 10th in a stakes for King Kreesa, a 7-year-old gelding by King Cugat owned by Gerald and Susan Kresa and trained by David Donk.

Donk is a disciple of Woody Stephens, who won five consecutive Belmont Stakes in the 1980s, including with Conquistador Cielo, who in 1982 won the Belmont five days after winning the Metropolitan Handicap.

Donk said that when Irad Ortiz Jr. jumped off King Kreesa following the Fourstardave, where he finished fourth, “he was adamant I should run him back,” Donk said.

Donk said on his way back to the barn, he ran into some old friends who he knew when he worked for Stephens, including the woman who was Conquistador Cielo’s exercise rider.

“I was like, ‘This is karma,’ and it really had me thinking,” Donk said. “He was good on Sunday, he was good on Monday when we entered. I told the clients we have 45 minutes to post to scratch him if we want to. I wouldn’t do anything to harm him. He’s not a horse that really needs to recover from a race.”

Donk put Jose Ortiz on King Kreesa because Donk said he felt he got along with him well. Irad Ortiz rode Offering Plan for trainer Chad Brown. He finished third.

At the break, King Kreesa took a step to the right, and Jose Ortiz said his right iron went backward. But King Kreesa quickly recovered and was in front entering the first turn.

He set fractions of 24.61 seconds for the quarter, 49.67 for the half-mile, and 1:14.00 while maintaining a measured length or so advantage over Brother O’Connell.

Brother O’Connell still was hanging with King Kreesa in the stretch before fading in the final sixteenth. Meanwhile, Kharafa, who saved ground while last under Joe Bravo, went around one horse at the top of the lane, dove back to the inside, and chased King Kreesa home, only to fall a nose short.

“When he felt him, he gave me another gear – that made the difference,” Ortiz said. “He always tries hard, and he has a huge heart.”

King Kreesa covered the 1 1/16 miles over yielding turf in 1:42.96 and returned $8.30 as the third choice.

“I know he’s pretty game,” Donk said. “I got to give Jose a lot of credit, and I got to give Tom Morley a lot of credit. He let Jose off this horse [Brother O’Connell] at noon the day of the draw. Jose gets along with him really well.”

Tim Hills, the trainer of Kharfa, was disappointed nobody went with King Kreesa early but was proud of his gelding’s effort, his 11th second-place finish to go along with 11 wins from 37 starts.

“My horses Achilles’ heel is he doesn’t really like to be in tight,” Hills said. “But when all is said and done, he ran his ass off.”

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