Monday, August 17, 2009


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After making his last two starts in open company, Ruth Bedford’s Banrock returned to his New York roots Sunday to win the 30th running of the $110,000 West Point Handicap at Saratoga Race Course, becoming the second horse in the race’s history to win consecutive runnings.

Bounding along in midpack through early fractions of 23.21 and 47.83 set by Mission Approved, Banrock rallied from the outside on the turn and gained steadily through the stretch to win by a neck over Pennington. His final time for 1 1/8th miles was 1:47.48.

“We definitely had to make up some ground turning for home with the way the turf is,” said trainer Tom Bush. “The speed is starting to hold more and more every day, so I was worried about it. But when he can get outside, that’s when he’s awful tough - if he gets a little pace in front of him and he can sit off the pace, that’s when he runs his best.”

Banrock made his last two starts at Monmouth Park, running second in the Monmouth Stakes and fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations, both behind Presious Passion. Bush said he had wanted to try the horse in open company while he was still fresh early in the year, but would take back running in the United Nations if he could.

“It was a bad choice on my part to run him at a mile and three-eighths [in the United Nations] especially at Monmouth with the pace scenario and the speed-favoring nature of the track,” Bush said.

“He loves Saratoga for sure [and] when he got up here, he really picked up mentally and we were pretty confident he was going to show up today.”

With the exception of his two most recent starts, 6-year-old Banrock has spent his entire career running in New York and Sunday’s West Point win marked his sixth New York-bred stakes triumph.

“I have total admiration for this horse,” said jockey Kent Desormeaux, who has been aboard the gelding for all of his stakes wins. “He has been one of my success stories since coming to New York. Every time I see him, I start smiling. He’s a winning machine. I just punch my lottery ticket with Banrock. He's always there."

Sent off as the heavy favorite, Banrock paid 3.80 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the crowd of 52,435 and earned $66,000 for the win to lift his lifetime earnings to $643,213. Extra Zip, My Man Lars, Hangingbyathread, Kutais, North Country, Mission Approved, Solvent and Dantastic completed the order of finish.

Bush said he was unsure when or where Banrock would make his next start.

“We’ll have to sit back and take a look at it, but he’s been good to us, so we’ve got to take care of him,” Bush said. “We want to win it again, we hope to have him around for a couple more years.”

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