09/11/2011 10:58AM

Belmont: Former New York turf champion Banrock retired following illness

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Banrock, the New York-bred turf champion of 2009, has been retired at age 8.

ELMONT, N.Y. - On the day Belmont Park was to host the 36th running of the Ashley T. Cole Handicap, a two-time winner of the race was retired.

 The 8-year-old Banrock, who won the Cole in 2008-09, will not run again, trainer Tom Bush confirmed Sunday. Banrock was diagnosed with an unspecified viral disease. He spent about two weeks at the Mid Atlantic Equine Medical Center in Ringoes, N.J., before returning to Bush’s Belmont Park barn earlier in the week.

 “I was going to observe him for a week or so; all his blood work looks really good, I just want to make sure he looks good,’’ Bush said. “We’re working on finding him a new job. It’s a question of finding a place where he’ll have some use, I just don’t want to turn him out.’’

 Though he went winless in his last nine starts dating back to November 2009, Banrock won 12 of 39 starts, including eight stakes and banked $830,815 for owner Ruth Bedford, who races under the name Nyala Farm. Banrock was the New York-bred turf champion of 2009 after sweeping the New York Racing Association’s quartet of statebred turf stakes -  the Kingston, West Point, Ashley T. Cole, and Mohawk. He won three of those four in 2008, falling a length short when fourth in that year’s Mohawk.

 Bush was preparing Banrock for last month’s West Point at Saratoga when the gelding began suffering from a case of jaundice. That’s when he was sent to Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in Lambertville, N.J.,where doctors could not make a definitive diagnosis.

“They believe it was something viral, they don’t think they’ll ever find out and they tested him for a lot of different things,’’ Bush said. “He responded to anti-viral medication, and his bloodwork returned to normal. He never had dramatic symptoms other than the jaundice. That onset of the jaundice was very, very sudden. It’s another one of those things I’ve never seen before.’’

 Banrock is a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin out of the dam It’s a Gherkin.