09/13/2008 12:00AM

Banrock sticks out in Cole cast

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ELMONT, N.Y. - In the usually competitive New York-bred male turf division, Banrock has established himself as a standout. A 5-year-old son of Go for Gin, Banrock seeks his fourth consecutive victory against statebreds when he heads a field of eight entered in the $100,000 Ashley T. Cole Handicap at 1 1/8 miles over Belmont Park's inner turf.

Banrock, trained by Tom Bush, won the Kingston in April, and after finishing sixth against open company in the Academy Award, he came back to defeat statebreds in the Thunder Puddles at Belmont and the West Point at Saratoga.

Banrock showed his versatility by coming from well off the pace in the Thunder Puddles when the pace was fast and from a stalking position in the West Point when the early fractions were glacial.

"Last time, the thing that the horse did that was good was the pace was slow but he went right into his hands - the horse just let go of the bridle and loped down the backside," Bush said. "He just relaxed so much more. He just turned himself off down the backside. That's why the horse finishes so well, because he's doing it the right way."

Kent Desormeaux, who is 3 for 3 on Banrock, rides the 121-pound highweight again from post 5.

Al Basha, beaten a nose in last year's Cole, was favored over Banrock in the West Point, but finished fifth, six lengths behind the winner. Trainer Angel Penna believes the soft turf combined with the tight turns at Saratoga worked against Al Basha.

"It was very yielding ground and those turns are very tight there, and he's not a maneuverable horse," Penna said. "We couldn't find anything wrong with him."

Classic Pack was third to Banrock in the Thunder Puddles and second to him in the West Point after a troubled start. Classic Pack is 0 for 6 at Belmont, however.

Hammock never fired in the Thunder Puddles here on July 6, but did run a creditable third in first-level allowance race against open company at Saratoga on Aug. 23. He projects as the main speed in the Cole under Rajiv Maragh from the rail.

Gimme Credit finished second to Banrock in the Thunder Puddles, but has only one win from his last 12 starts. Logic Way has two wins and a nose loss since being transferred to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

Stepaside, trained by Tom Voss, won twice at Saratoga and has also run well at Belmont.