08/17/2010 3:28PM

Banrock faces tough assignment in West Point

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Banrock wins the Mohawk at Belmont in October 2009.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – It’s not easy winning a stakes race three straight years – just ask Zenyatta, who recently bagged her third Clement L. Hirsch by a neck, or Forever Together, whose bid for a Diana three-peat fell a head short.

So, Banrock has his work cut out when he attempts to win Thursday’s $100,000 West Point for the third consecutive year.

“I don’t know how you win a race three times, but we’re going to try,” said Tom Bush, who has saddled the 7-year-old gelding through his entire 33-race career – a body of work that has produced a dozen victories including a sweep of the four major turf stakes for New York-breds in 2009: the Kingston, West Point, Ashley T. Cole, and Mohawk.

Banrock will not only have to be good, he will need some racing luck in the West Point’s 31st running, which is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf and drew a full field of 12 plus two for the main track only.

In trying to win a third straight Kingston, Banrock flattened out and finished fifth as the 8-5 favorite in his first start of the year. Second time back, he improved several lengths in the Battlefield Stakes at Monmouth when beaten a neck.

Since the Battlefield, Banrock has turned in a trio of turf works at Saratoga, where he has either won or placed each of the past four years.

“He just loves it up here, he always has, and he thrives in this environment,” said Bush. “He’s coming into the race the right way.”

Despite his achievements, Banrock is only the second choice on the morning line, with Straight Story pegged as the 5-2 favorite.

After running a close second to Banrock in the A.T. Cole as a 3-year-old last fall, Straight Story was second by a head in the Grade 1 Jamaica, finishing ahead of subsequent Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Courageous Cat.

The Alan Goldberg-trained Straight Story has won two starts at 1 1/8 miles this year by a combined 13 lengths. He comes off a solid fourth behind three Grade 1 winners in the United Nations, beaten just two lengths for all the money.

Minnie Punt, who won the Kingston second out this year for Mike Miceli, concedes anywhere from five to 12 pounds under the allowance conditions.