09/17/2008 2:55PM

Banrock's Bid


When Banrock outbobbed Classic Pack to win last Sunday's Ashley T. Cole for sttaebred turf horses at Belmont by a nose, he completed one mildly historic achivement and positioned himself for another next month: He became the first horse to win the year's first three major grass stakes for New York-breds, and he can complete an unprecedented sweep of all four in the Mohawk at Belmont Oct. 18.

This may seem an entirely trivial accomplishment, but there's a sense in which this unorganized series of four statebred grass stakes has some genuine accomplishment and integrity to it.

These races date back to the first running of the Kingston in 1979. When the Mohawk was changed in 1994 from a filly sprint to a fourth statebred turf stakes, it created a little stakes program that was worth keeping a veteran in training to pursue. You could argue that more than any other series for older horses, it brings back familiar and sometimes popular runners year after year. As the chart below illustrates, it is a rarity in American racing in that the four races are so often won by horses who have won multiple races in the series -- 47 of the last 72 turf editions of the races have been won by horses with multiple victories in the series:

[Multiple winners highlighted in yellow; winners of 2+ races in one year in bold.]

Banrock, a 5-year-old Go For Gin gelding, became the first horse to win the Kingston (Belmont in May), West Point (Saratoga in August) and Cole (Belmont in September) in the same season. Dave won the three races over two years -- the 2005 West Point and the 2006 Kingston and Cole. Banrock and Dave are among 19 horses (including the legendary Fourstardave) to win two or more of the races in the last 20 years and they are among eight such horses to have won three or more, a group that also includes Certifiably Crazy, Draw Shot, I'm All Yours, Kate's Valentine, Pebo's Guy and Plato's Love.

Draw Shot is the former king of the series, having won four races over two years -- the 1997 Kingston and Mohawk and the 1998 Kingston and Cole.

Obviously, I'm fond of these races and many of their winners. We so rarely get to see the same horses come back years after year and mix it up together, and these are some of the most reliable and dependable racehorses you'll find anywhere. Yeah, if 7-1 Classic Pack had nipped 4-5 Banrock I would have had the same $1 pick-4 and it would have a paid a lot more than the $424/$1 it did, but what Banrock's now in position to do is kind of fun.

And if someone wants to sponsor a series for statebreds, this one makes a lot more sense than the "Big Apple Triple" of route and sprint races at Belmont and Finger Lakes that Tin Cup Chalice won this summer.

*Lots of interesting discussion here while I was gone about Big Brown's race at Monmouth last Saturday. From your comments, I guess it was either one of the best performances in the history of grass racing by a superior grass horse who "could have" or "might as well have" won by 10 lengths, or a desperate victory over Grade 2 company by a horse who's obviously better on dirt. Or somewhere in between.

As for the winning Beyer Speed Figure of 105, it is completely made up, as is anyone's speed figure, sheet number or any other numeric gauge of the only grass race run at Monmouth last Saturday. There's simply nothing to compare it to and no context for the raw time. Having said that, it seems like a highly reasonable guess.

The first four finishers' margins dictated they were going to get consecutive numbers a point apart, so it's a 105 for Big Brown, 104 for Proudinsky, 103 for Shakis and 102 for Silver Tree. Proudinsky's 104 is a two-point career top, but he had a very clean trip and came into the race in career form. Shakis's 103 is a bit lower than his very best (105 and 106 winning the last two Baruchs), but he didn't appear to fire that very best shot and has never done so outside of Saratoga, so a bit below his best seems about right. You could quibble a point or two either way, but it's unlikely the truth is much farther than that from a 105.