09/17/2008 3:55PM

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.

Matt McAleer More than 1 year ago
Bruce, That can't be my old running mate in NJ....can it be!!!! How can I get in touch with you? I don't know if I can post info on here. Go to my business website to get my contact info and give me a shout. www.classicasset.net
Larry Thiel More than 1 year ago
It's ridiculous that they continue to start 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby. You take the most watched race in the country and make it absolutely impossible for the casual fan, who is watching his one race of the year, to have any idea what's going on. It's a missed opportunity to show people what racing's all about. Since they're not going to change that, why not let a horse win and come over from Europe. I'm kind of intrigued by the idea. And the horse that doesn't get in from this country had no business being in the race!
081305 More than 1 year ago
$44,321 carryover today
Pete More than 1 year ago
Y'arr! In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day: http://tinyurl.com/643mxn
SamG More than 1 year ago
Last I knew Ginger Punch and Proud Spell were thinking of passing the(can`t say it without gagging)Ladies Classic,but what does it really matter?Why does anybody care who shows up for or wins the Classic?Got me.If Secretariat,Man o'War,Citation,Affirmed,Spectacular Bid and Forego all showed up and lost to Go Between would it mean he`s the greatest racehorse to ever run?On this surface it means nothing.I really don`t understand why anybody cares.I won`t be betting any of the BC races this year.Anyone who is tired of the bs and wants to make a statement please join me.
Unitas More than 1 year ago
Hey Gunbow, thanks for opening some old wounds I thought were healed by now. In the '98 BC Classic I took the worst bad beat I had ever taken before or since that race. I had LOVED Swain coming into that race, and thought I was gonna make the score of my life. I had him on top of every wager you could think of, including multiple race wagers that were ALL alive to that final leg. Let's just say I would have easily cleared a years pay had Swain won that race. I can still see Frankie Dettori coming wider and wider on the turn with Swain, for if that colt would have cut that turn he would have won quite handily. After going ridiculously wide and losing all chance, remarkably he was coming again nearing the finish, in my eyes much the best horse that day. I still hold a personal vendetta against Lefranco Dettori, one that I will probably take to my grave with me. Just had to vent, sorry if I bored anyone with this info, it just still burns me up whenever anyone mentions the '98 BC Classic in my presence! Go Big Brown!!
Jack More than 1 year ago
I do not bet on any NY statebred races. I did not mind 1 or 2 a day at the beginning of the day, but when NYRA started throwing 4 or 5 of them at us , I finally got fed up. I would rather lose money on a graded stakes race than win money on a statebred.
dk More than 1 year ago
Steve, Great article on Phil Gleaves in Saturday's Form. Got to know him a bit when he was at Monmouth and he really is a good guy and exceptional trainer. he did great work with a turf mare named Lady Reiko who was talented but fragile and he gave her the time and proper care to let her show her best. So refreshing to see a guy with his priorities in the right place. There are so many really great horsemen/women around who really know their way around a horse but unfortunately they too often have to take a backseat in the standings to the guys with the best vets or a willingness to, if not break the rules outright, bend them to the extreme. One can only hope the playing field gets leveled a bit more with the elimination of steroids and stronger restrictions on bute and some of the other detrimental drugs being administered in excess to throughbreds. good to see a real horseman back on the national stage if only for one race. Thanks for the article.
bruce b in tampa More than 1 year ago
matt_mcaleer, Couldn't help but smile,man!I named my son matthew because you were the most decent person i ever hung around.love to take in an afternoon of racing action with ya',you name the place. Sorry ya'll,but its been 30 years.
gofor broke More than 1 year ago
That 12:05 show is now a must see with Andy Serling on it. He showed Seven In A Row's trip from the 10 post on the inner turf at Saratoga. After watching it, I was keying that horse. He paid $16, and should have been co-favorite. Serling does a real service for those of us who want to play value horses who figure, and are showing ability. That was great!