Having already won the 2008 editions of the Kingston, West Point and Ashley T. Cole Handicaps, Banrock could become the first horse to sweep the four major turf stakes for New York-breds in a single year should he add the 30th running of the $150,000 Mohawk Handicap to his resume.
A bay son of Go for Gin, Banrock will be making his second appearance in the nine-furlong Mohawk. Last year, he was sixth as a 45-1 shot behind Al Basha, but this year has won four of his six starts, all under jockey Kent Desormeaux.
“We are really happy with the way he has developed and matured,” said trainer Tom Bush of Banrock, who was bred and is owned by Kate O’Connell and Ruth Bedford’s Nyala Farm. “We knew he was going to be a late developer like his sister, Finlandia. We didn’t even bring him to the track until January of his three-year-old year, and even then he was very backwards, no muscle tone, a baby face … he was just one of those who took longer to develop.
“But now, he’s grown into a little man, and having owners who allowed him the time, and didn’t push to race more than six or seven times a year, is a key factor.”
Bedford and O’Connell, who keep three pensioned racehorses at their Connecticut farm in addition to two miniature bulls, a llama and two donkeys, board their mares at Doug Koch’s Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, New York, including the dam of Banrock and Finlandia, It’s a Gherkin.
“It’s because of Doug we got involved in the New York-bred program” said O’Connell, who was one of the first woman exercise riders at Belmont Park back in the 1960’s. “It’s been marvelous. Ruth is 94 years old, and this has really kept her going.”
Banrock, who has won $429,613 in his career, will carry top weight of 122 pounds, including Desormeaux, in the race as he gives from four to 12 pounds to his rivals.
Under 118 pounds, last year’s winner, Al Basha, is the second highweight in the field of 14, which includes two also-eligibles. Starting as well will be the second and third-place finishers in the Ashley T. Cole and West Point, Classic Pack and My Man Lars, and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Self Made Man, who will be making his New York debut after finishing no worse than third in seven of his eight 2008 starts.
Like Al Basha in the Mohawk, Amherst Stable’s Rewrite will be looking for a repeat in the Ticonderoga, which drew a dozen fillies and mares going nine furlongs. The 5-year-old daughter of Editor’s Note has visited the winner’s circle three times since last year’s victory, including a pair of overnight stakes wins at Belmont in the spring.
E El R’s Stable’s Chestoria returns to the state-bred ranks following off-the-board finishes in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel and Grade 1 Diana. Winner of an overnight stakes and an optional claimer earlier in the year, the daughter of Chester House also was second by a neck in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth in June.
Rounding out the top contenders are Laue Ranch’s Love Cove, with two seconds and two thirds in four starts this year; Statehouse Stable’s Nehantic Kat, two-for-four, and Barry K. Schwartz’ Nedjma, third behind Rewrite in July.
State-bred juveniles get their chance to shine in the $100,000 Sleepy Hollow and the $100,000 Maid of the Mist for fillies, both at a mile.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Trinity Magic, 2-for-2 after his 1½-length victory over Tall Poppi in the Bertram F. Bongard on Sept. 21, is co-high weight with Legal Consent in the field of 11 two-year-olds. Trained by Carlos Martin, Legal Consent finished second in his debut on Sept. 25 and returned to defeat Tremont winner Dagnabit in the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes on Oct. 4.
Coming into the race off impressive maiden scores are Head Heart Hoof, a 5½-
length maiden winner on Sept. 6; Fiddlers Afleet, who scored by nearly seven lengths in breaking his maiden Sept. 19, and Wicked Climb, a seven-length winner on Oct. 5.
Sneakin Up, a daughter of Hook and Ladder who broke her maiden in her sixth start in the Joseph A. Gimma on Sept. 21, and the Todd Pletcher-trained High Cry figure in a field of a dozen fillies in the Maid of the Mist.
The field for Saturday’s 30th running of the Mohawk Handicap:
PP Horse Jockey Trainer
1 My Man Lars Javier Castellano George Weaver
2a Gimme Credit Joe Bravo Timothy Hills
3 North Country Rajiv Maragh John Hertler
4 Classic Pack Richard Migliore Mike Hernandez
5a Get Serious Pablo Fragoso John Forbes
6 Banrock Kent Desormeaux Tom Bush
7 Hangingbyathread Eibar Coa Carlos Martin
8 Solvent Ramon Dominguez George Weaver
9 Self Made Man Jose Lezcano Michael Maker
10 Stepaside Alan Garcia Thomas Voss
11 Al Basha Cornelio Velasquez Angel Penna Jr.
12 Logic Way Edgar Prado Richard Dutrow Jr.
AE13 Kettle Two Dennis Carr Charlton Baker
AE14 Allaboutmack Victor Santiago Joseph Lostritto