05/08/2009 11:00PM

Banrock eyes repeat in Kingston

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Tom Bush looks at the likelihood of a soft Belmont turf course for Sunday's $100,000 Kingston Stakes as both a blessing and a curse when it comes to his horse Banrock.

While Banrock went 3 for 3 last year over Belmont turf that was labeled good, soft, or yielding, Bush is somewhat concerned that such ground could be more demanding on a horse like Banrock who is returning from a six-month layoff.

"The only thing I worry about with the soft ground is it's a little more tiring, and he hasn't run since last November," Bush said. "When you're running in these stakes, you got to have them pretty tight. I think he's pretty tight, but he doesn't seem quite as race sharp as he usually is. We got to get started, and he's got a good bottom under him."

Provided the Kingston remains on the turf, Banrock will face seven other New York-breds in the 1 1/16-mile race scheduled for Belmont's inner turf. His competition includes Giant Moon and Icabad Crane, two dirt stakes winners who are attempting turf for the first time.

Banrock won last year's Kingston by a head, but that was his second start off a layoff. This will be Banrock's first start since he finished third in the Grade 2 Red Smith at Aqueduct. Though Banrock has done extremely well on soft ground, Bush isn't sure if it's because his horse moves up over it or others simply flounder.

Banrock, who breaks from post 2 under Kent Desormeaux, prefers to come from off the pace. Mission Approved has shown speed in marathon races, but trainer Gary Contessa is not sure the competition will allow him to get loose on the lead going 1 1/16 miles. In his dirt races, Giant Moon has run better when he's forwardly placed. Scientist, making his first start since September, also figures to be among the first flight.

If rain moves the race to the dirt - the last 16 scheduled turf races here were moved to the dirt - then the race becomes an interesting battle among Giant Moon, Wishful Tomcat, and Icabad Crane.

Giant Moon won the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes last out but would not run in the slop. Wishful Tomcat is coming off a front-running victory in the Kings Point Handicap at Aqueduct on April 26. As a 3-year-old, Icabad Crane won the Federico Tesio and was third in the Preakness last year.