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Eldaafer nips Nite Light in Brooklyn

An ugly duckling became the proverbial swan in Belmont Park's sea of slop Friday as Alghuwayriyah Stable's ELDAAFER (A.P. Indy) rallied out in the middle of the track to edge Nite Light (Thunder Gulch) on the line in the $198,500 Brooklyn H. (G2). Claimed from Shadwell Stable for $20,000 a little more than four months ago, the four-year-old gelding has amply rewarded that purchase by winning three of five starts, and scored this initial stakes triumph in a time of 2:31 2/5 for 1 1/2 miles. The 17-1 longshot returned $36.20, $12.80 and $5.40.

Under Jorge Chavez, Eldaafer was content to rate near the back of the seven-horse field as Nite Light took an early lead through an opening quarter of :24 3/5 before yielding to 2008 Brooklyn winner Delosvientos (Siphon [Brz]), who made a three-wide bid for the lead around the first turn and passed the half-mile marker in :49. Nite Light soon regained the lead, however, and was challenged by 8-5 favorite Rising Moon (Runaway Groom). Those two would duel all the way to the eighth-pole with Nite Light maintaining a slight edge while getting a mile in 1:39 2/5 and 10 furlongs in 2:04 3/5. Nip and tuck through the stretch, Nite Light finally dispensed with Rising Moon inside the final sixteenth, but the fresh Eldaafer, who had begun passing horses after the quarter-pole, was going best while racing well off the inside. Eldaafer got up at literally the last jump to deny Nite Light, a well-bred son of multiple Grade 1 winner Lite Light (Majestic Light) who also had experience in the claiming ranks.

Nite Light, at 6-1, gave back $6.50 and $3.90 and capped the $170 exacta. Rising Moon finished 2 1/2 lengths further back and returned $3.30 and finished the $874 trifecta. It was four lengths back to Ea (Dynaformer), who completed the $2,353 superfecta (3-2-9-1). Alcomo (Brz) (Rainbow Corner [GB]) was the last to finish as both Fierce Wind (Dixie Union) and Delosvientos were eased when hopelessly beaten. Barrier Reef (Mizzen Mast), Don Misil (Arg) (Mutakkdim) and Lord Kipling (Kipling) were scratched.

Eldaafer broke his maiden in his second start for Shadwell last September, but fared poorly in two subsequent attempts to pass his first allowance condition. He was dropped into a $20,000 claimer for nonwinners-of-two at Aqueduct on January 23 and won by 7 1/2 lengths, but was claimed by trainer John Toscano Jr, who was his owner of record for a subsequent starter allowance score prior to racing under the Alghuwayriyah banner. Toscano remained the trainer of record for a last-place allowance effort on March 14, a allowance win on April 3 and a third in the May 7 Nasty and Bold S.

"We took the blinkers off," said Diane Alvarado, the Delaware Park-based conditioner who took her trainer's license out in February and who was listed as trainer for the Brooklyn. "He likes to stalk. He has to have things his way. His owner (Richard DeMarco of Alghuwayriyah Stable) was very confident and even said he was going to kiss any horse who finished in front of him. I was confident, but I wasn't going to kiss any horse."

This score in the historic Brooklyn pushed Eldaafer's earnings to $231,392 from a line of 10-5-0-2.

Bred by Shadwell in Kentucky, Eldaafer was produced by Habibti (Tabasco Cat), who won or placed in five Grade 1 races. Her two wins at the highest level both came at age two, in the 2001 Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Hollywood Starlet S. (G1). She is also the dam of an unraced juvenile filly named Muhaawara (Unbridled's Song), Eldaafer's unnamed yearling full brother and a 2009 filly by Smart Strike. This female family is also responsible for 1995 Kentucky Oaks (G1) vixen Gal in a Ruckus (Bold Ruckus). Tracing the family further back, one finds Canadian champion and prolific broodmare Classy 'n Smart (Smarten), the dam of Hall of Famer and producer Dance Smartly (Danzig), Grade 1 winner and leading sire Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) and Grade 1 winner Full of Wonder (Mr. Prospector). This is also the family of 1992 champion turf male Sky Classic (Nijinsky II), Canadian champions Grey Classic (*Grey Dawn II) and Regal Classic (Vice Regent), and Grade 1 winner Always a Classic (Deputy Minister).


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