08/16/2009 12:00AM

Banrock gets into setting that fits him

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Back at his distance, on his turf course, and with fellow New York-breds, Banrock hopes to make it back to the winner's circle in Sunday's $100,000 West Point Handicap at Saratoga.

Banrock won the West Point last year as part of a three-race win streak against New York-breds. Overall, he is one length shy of having a six-race winning streak against New York-breds entering this race.

"He certainly seems to be as good as anybody that's around here right now," said Tom Bush, who trains Banrock for Ruth Bedford's Nyala Farm. "Maybe this race has more depth than some of the other ones."

Banrock, who will break from post 7 under Kent Desormeaux, meets nine rivals in the West Point and, as the 123-pound highweight, will concede three to seven pounds to the field.

In his last two starts, Banrock has been racing in deep water. On June 13, he was beaten a nose by Presious Passion in the $200,000 Monmouth Stakes. In the Grade 1 United Nations on July 4, he finished fifth behind Presious Passion, who ran the field off its feet early. Banrock was more than 20 lengths off the pace, but found himself pressing the second flight of contenders.

"Presious Passion was in his own race, and we were in the second race," Bush said. "We're laying second, pressing down the backside. I looked up and said this horse is not going to finish like he usually does."

Bush is extremely pleased with how Banrock is doing at Saratoga, where he is 2-2-0 from 5 starts.

"Since the day he got here he's stayed on his toes the whole time," Bush said. "He enjoys it up here. He shows up and runs his race."

If Hangingbyathread can repeat his effort from the Do It Fast Stakes for statebreds, he could be Banrock's major threat. He actually finished a neck in front of Banrock in last year's Mohawk Handicap at Belmont.

"He's still a little bit silly, but he's finally starting to put it together," trainer Carlos Martin said. "He definitely looks like an improving horse."

Mission Approved, who cuts back from a two-length loss in the 1 5/8-mile John's Call last Sunday, and Extra Zip should supply enough pace to allow Banrock and Hangingbyathread to settle and make their late runs.

Kutais, who finished second to Hangingbyathread, has improved and has the versatile running style to be a factor from post 9 under Edgar Prado.