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Thursday, May 07, 2009


FAN FAVORITES SQUARE OFF IN KINGSTON


ELMONT, N.Y. -- When Banrock stuck his head out to win Belmont Park’s 2008 Kingston Stakes over Dave, it signaled the start of a big season for the gelded son of 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin. By year’s end, Banrock had won four of eight starts with two third-place finishes as well as the admiration of New York’s fans.

Sunday afternoon, the 6-year-old Banrock will return for the 31st running of the $100,000-added Kingston Stakes for New York-breds at a mile and a sixteenth on the inner turf course, where he will face some others that have earned admiration for their class and courage. With plenty of rain during the week, the footing should favor Banrock, who won the Kingston over yielding ground last year.


“He seems to handle (soft turf) better than most of them,” said Tom Bush, who trains Banrock for Nyala Farm. “I don’t think he necessarily relishes it; he’s run well on firm turf as well. He’s just an old class horse and he shows up every time. He comes from off the pace, and his races are reasonably spaced. That has helped to keep him sound – and has made him popular with the fans.”

Banrock, as is his custom, spent the winter with Donna Freyer -- a former trainer in New York who started with the late Hall of Famer Frank Whiteley -- at Custom Care Equine in Camden, S.C. He has returned healthy and happy.

“It’s time for him to get started,” Bush said.

Another popular player here is Albert Fried Jr.’s Giant Moon, who began his career with four straight victories. His fortunes began to change in Aqueduct’s sloppy Grade 3 Gotham in 2008, and while he was a close fourth in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, his season ended with an eighth-place finish in the Preakness.

The Giant’s Causeway colt has come back strong thus far in his 4-year-old season, rebounding from hoof problems to win two of three starts. His biggest race so far in 2009 came in the Grade 3, nine-furlong Excelsior at Aqueduct on Wood Memorial Day, April 4. There, he hung with Cool Coal Man through a pokey pace and came on for a half-length victory.

The Kingston will mark his first start on turf.

“He developed an abscess in his right front hoof that eventually caused him to slightly rotate – and we all know how deadly that can be,” said trainer Richard Schosberg. “We decided to get his feet right. Ray (blacksmith Ray Galluscio, brother of trainer Dominic Galluscio) has really done a great job. Giant Moon’s feet will always be an area of concern, but we’re on top of it.

“We had some options, but this was the best one. We felt it was a good time to see if he could turf, going in here against New York-breds rather than against more experienced turf horses.”

Earle I. Mack’s Icabad Crane won the Federico Tesio at Pimlico last spring, and ran third in the Preakness off that race. Eighth in the Belmont Stakes, the 4-year-old Jump Start gelding seeks an end to a seven-race losing streak when he makes his turf debut in the Kingston.

“To tell the truth, I’m a little frustrated with his last few races,” said trainer H. Graham Motion, as Icabad Crane enters the Kingston off three third-place finishes. “He just seems to not quite get there. I have had running him on the turf in the back of my mind for some time now. He ran well on the PolyTrack at Turfway Park and he has trained well on the Tapeta surface here at Fair Hill (Md.). Plus, he is doing very well.

“I am always concerned with a soft course, and he would certainly run if the race came off the turf. I wouldn’t be very fond of soft turf, but I think that, right now, I will be inclined to take a shot and run him.”


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