Francis-Henri Graffard opted to pass on the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) with recent Canadian International (G1) winner Erupt, but the French horseman has an entirely different type of horse to go to war with in the shape of Karar.
Bought for $275,080 at Arqana May as a two-year-old, the Al Shaqab runner didn’t make it to the races as a juvenile. Karar seemed worth waiting for when romping by six lengths in his debut the following winter at Saint-Cloud. He wasted no time in jumping into a classic trial, finishing second in the Prix de Fontainebleau (G3) to Territories.
Territories was subsequently runner-up to Gleneagles in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and victorious in the Prix Jean Prat (G1) over Mile (G1) contender Dutch Connection. That formline looked better at the time, however, than it does in hindsight.
Karar advanced to the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1) and finished a creditable fourth to Make Believe and New Bay. Speaking of hindsight, it’s remarkable to see a couple of the also-rans from that classic — Highland Reel (sixth) and Muhaarar (eighth). They improved beyond recognition, which just points out the dangers of reading too much into formlines. Karar, on the other hand, went retrograde, dropped his last two outings of season versus lesser, and was gelded.
Graffard brought him back in conditions races this spring, and Karar found his bearings when shortening up to seven furlongs. The son of Invincible Spirit won two straight over the summer at Maisons-Laffitte (convincingly) and Deauville (barely). He tried his hand at six furlongs in the Prix de Meautry (G3), only to find it all happening too quickly for him in a close seventh. Then again, he’d also experimented with cheekpieces on that occasion, so maybe there was more to it than just being outpaced. Karar went back up to his preferred seven in the Prix du Pin (G3), where he endured a tough trip on the inside, had to work for room, and ran a better-than-appears third in the circumstances.
Drawn on the far outside in the Prix de la Foret (G1) on Arc Day, Karar made his own luck under an inspired Gregory Benoist. The 40-1 shot gunned to the front and crossed over, in a maneuver that beat all bar Mile threat Limato. After Limato sped past him in the stretch, Karar grimly maintained a half-length advantage over Suedois, in a career-best effort. Rightly did Graffard tweet that Karar “ran his heart out to finish a valiant 2nd.”
Like Home of the Brave, Karar wanted the Mile as his first preference, with the Turf Sprint (G1) as his fall-back position. That makes sense, but being fourth on the also-eligible list, he’s unlikely to scrape into the Mile, and will have to try his luck in the Turf Sprint. Given his performance in the Meautry, Karar may find himself farther back than usual and get taken out of his game. Can he conjure enough of a late kick to erase the deficit?
Photo shared by Nicolas de Watrigant via Twitter