08/16/2009 12:00AM

Banrock guts out a West Point victory


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Banrock needed every ounce of his class and every inch of the stretch of Saratoga's inner turf course to win Sunday's by a head over Pennington. It was two lengths back to Extra Zip in third.

The victory enabled Banrock to become just the second horse to record back-to-back victories in this turf stakes for New York-breds that has been run for 30 years. Excellent Tipper repeated in 1994-95. Fourstardave was a two-time winner as well, taking this race in 1989 and 1991.

Banrock, a 6-year-old son of Go for Gin, won this race by two lengths last year when the race was run over a soft turf course. Sunday, over firm ground, Banrock was not as dominant, but equally as effective.

"Everyone was talking about the firm ground, but we had had him on the firm ground before, it didn't seem to bother him,'' winning trainer Tom Bush said. "It was great, wonderful to win the race [again]. We want to win it again, we hope to have him around for a couple more years.''

Under Kent Desormeaux, Banrock raced in sixth position early, outside of North Country and in the third flight of horses that were traveling in pairs. Mission Approved and Pennington dueled for the lead through fractions of 23.21 seconds, 47.83, and 1:11.33 for six furlongs.

Desormeaux tipped Banrock four wide turning for home and the 123-pound highweight was gradually able to wear down a stubborn Pennington, who had opened up a clear lead in midstretch. Banrock, owned by Ruth Bedford's Nyala Farm, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.48 and returned $3.80 as the 4-5 favorite.

"The race set up nice,'' Desormeaux said. "The field came back to him at the quarter pole. He idled a little bit when he made the lead. I have total admiration for this horse. He has been one of my success stories since coming to New York. Every time I see him, I start smiling. He's a nice horse and gives me a nice ride.''

Banrock won for the 10th time in 28 starts and has now banked $643,213.