10/24/2015 4:22PM

Lubash chases down Kharafa to win Mohawk

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NYRA/Chelsea Durand
Lubash wins the Mohawk Stakes by a head Saturday at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – There have been more renewals of the Lubash-Kharafa rivalry than there have been “Rocky” movies. Unlike those films, however, the action never is boring, and the results are not always predictable.

After Kharafa finished first and Lubash fourth in last month’s Ashley T. Cole Handicap, it was fair to wonder if Lubash had finally had enough after a 44-race campaign that began Feb. 6, 2010, over Aqueduct’s inner track.

But on Saturday, Lubash squashed any thoughts he was washed up, running down his old nemesis in the final strides to win the $200,000 Mohawk Stakes by a head at Belmont Park. It was 3 3/4 lengths back to Iron Power in third.

It was the first time in five tries that Lubash won the Mohawk. He finished second in this race in 2011, 2013, and 2014 and was fourth in 2012. Lubash won it in a track record 1:39.08 for 1 1/16 miles, eclipsing the mark of 1:39.38 set by Roman Envoy in 1992. Sent off the second choice, Lubash returned $9.10 to win.

It was the 12th time Lubash and Kharafa have met, and Kharafa still maintains a 7-5 advantage. This was the sixth time they have finished 1-2. Last year, Kharafa won this race by 1 3/4 lengths over Lubash.

For this race, trainer Christophe Clement instructed Junior Alvarado to take Lubash back, regardless of how fast the pace was.

“He seems to run better being covered up,” Clement said. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry if you get into trouble. He runs better that way.’ ”

Lubash broke with run on his mind, but Alvarado was able to wrangle him back to seventh while Notacatbutallama and Orino roared out to the front and set fractions of 22.91 seconds and 45.76 for the half-mile.

Meanwhile, Javier Castellano had Kharafa in the second flight of horses, right inside With Exultation.

At the top of the stretch, With Exultation made a move to the leaders while Castellano tried to wait with Kharafa. But with Notacatbutallama and Orino tiring, Castellano had to move Kharafa off the rail and into the three path.

Kharafa struck the front outside the eighth pole, but Lubash was unleashed by Alvarado and split horses at that point. He chased and finally overpowered Kharafa 20 yards from home to get the win, his 16th from 45 starts for owner Leonard Pivnick’s Aliyu Ben J Stables.

“Last time, I didn’t have any pace at all in the race,” Alvarado said. “This time, they moved along a little faster, which gave me a chance to cover him, and he relaxed right there. He gave me the kick he usually gives me.”

Tim Hills, the trainer of Kharafa, said Castellano told him he had to move earlier than he wanted.

“He said, ‘I moved too early. I admit it. I messed up,’ ” said Hills. “He was keen, but he wasn’t rank. He said, ‘Those horses were stopping, and I had to muscle my way out, and I hit the lead too soon.’ ”

There could be a 13th meeting between Lubash and Kharafa as early as next month’s $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park West.