In both 2008 and 2009, Banrock won his seasonal debut in the Kingston, before going on to dominate in the statebred turf division. Last year, he successfully completed a sweep of the four major turf route races for New York-breds (the Kingston, West Point, Ashley T. Cole and Mohawk) and the year before won three, missing only in the Mohawk.
Compared to some horses, Bush said Banrock has a tendency to bounce back easily from his winter layoffs in South Carolina: “He really takes the rest well and comes back good and supple, so it’s much easier to get him ready.”
The 8-5 morning-line favorite, Banrock will carry 123 pounds including regular jockey Kent Desormeaux as he breaks from post position 5.
Banrock will have no shortage of challengers Sunday, as seven others will line up to face him, including the improving Uncle T Seven.
With one start under his belt so far this year, a late-running third in the seven-furlong Billy Redcoat Stakes at Aqueduct on April 21, Uncle T Seven is primed for a big effort, said trainer John Kimmel.
“He’s had four works since that race, he’s fit, and I expect him to run pretty well,” Kimmel said. “He worked head and head with Franny Freud on the turf on May 16 and he’s not going to be a horse who will just disappear when the real running starts.”
The filly Franny Freud was an impressive winner of Wednesday’s New York Stallion Stakes against males and is pointing to the Grade 1 Prioress on Sunday, July 4 at Belmont Park.
Uncle T Seven will have Rajiv Maragh in the irons as he breaks from post position 6.
Flying Zee Stable’s Writingonthewall steps back into stakes company for the first time in nearly two years. Off from July 2008 through December 2009, the Carlos Martin trainee exits a win in an optional claimer against statebreds over the Aqueduct turf course on April 15. He also turned in second and third-place efforts over the inner track this winter.
Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado has the call from post 7.
Completing the field in the Kingston are Minnie Punt, Gimme Credit, Extra Zip, Cash’n in Dixie, and Star of New York. Dr. D.F.C has been entered to run if the race is moved to the main track.
The Mount Vernon has also drawn seven, including Oak Bluff Stable’s Akilina, making her third start of the year. Third in the Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream on February 20, Akilina was the runner up to Way With Words in her most recent start, the South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream on April 10.
“She was second-best, unfortunately, and the filly who won was very impressive that day,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “But, she’s a nice, consistent, filly and she’s doing very well.”
Akilina is 6-4-2 from 15 lifetime starts and has finished off the board just twice, and has three wins from four starts over the turf course at Belmont Park. On Sunday, she will get the services of Rajiv Maragh from post 5 as the 119-pound highweight and 3-1 second choice.
Craig Bernick’s You Go West Girl will make her second start of 2010 in the Mount Vernon after making a late bid for third in a Keeneland allowance race on April 16. The 6-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley had three wins from eight starts in 2009, including two at Belmont. Jose Lezcano, who piloted her to both Belmont wins last year, retains the mount from post 2.
Trainer Tom Bush will saddle two in the Mount Vernon; Tulipmania, who will step into stakes company for the first time, and Our Golden Dream, who returns from a winter layoff in this race.
“We’d like to see Tulipmania get off the pace just a little bit more,” Bush said. “She’s been right up there in most of her races and I think if we could get her covered up a little bit, she’d run well. I’d actually hope to have Our Golden Dream more forwardly-placed this time. She had a tremendous work last week over turf and it seems like she’s ready to run big, so we’re hoping for the best.”
Paraiba, Stormy Relations, and Chestoria complete the field. Big Brownie has been entered to run if the race is moved to the main track.