08/16/2011 4:08PM

Saratoga: Straight Story back to defend title in West Point Stakes

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Straight Story will be looking to defend his title in the West Point Stakes on Thursday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Everyone who’s anyone in the New York-bred turf division signed up for Thursday’s $100,000 West Point Stakes, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf.

Straight Story survived a pace duel to win last year’s running at even money for Alan Goldberg. The defending titlist has his work cut out for him as he drops from graded stakes and breaks from post 9. Lubash and Writingonthewall – who is 4 for 4 on Saratoga turf – may also vie for the early lead.

Among those taking another crack at Straight Story are Pocket Cowboys, Icabad Crane, and Banrock, the two-three-four finishers last year.

Pocket Cowboys turned the tables on Straight Story in the Mohawk last fall and returned in May to capture the Kingston Stakes, before a couple of second-place finishes against open company. He is back to the statebred ranks after coming up empty in a $100,000 optional claimer.

“When money is on the line, that’s when he shows his best,” said trainer Scott Schwartz, who bred and owns the 5-year-old gelding. “You can beat him in an allowance, but he’ll come back and beat you in a stake.”

Recent rainy weather could be a tonic for two-time West Point winner Banrock, who won the race on soft ground in 2008 and on firm turf in 2009, when he swept the four “majors” in the division along with the Kingston, Ashley T. Cole, and Mohawk.

Banrock hasn’t run since failing to fire in the May 29 Kingston behind Pocket Cowboys, but he picks up leading rider John Velazquez, who was aboard for an improved workout last week.

“Banrock is going to run well, I’m absolutely sure of it,” said trainer Tom Bush, who should know.

Icabad Crane is tabbed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite after getting up in the last stride of a sloppy Evan Shipman. However, he has raced just twice on the grass, his best finish a belated run for third last year. His chances would improve greatly if the race winds up on the main track at 1 1/8 miles.

“I wouldn’t mind if the race came off, but he ran well in here last year, so we thought we’d take a shot,” trainer Graham Motion said.

Compliance Officer, Gimme Credit, Karakorum Legend, and Uncle T Seven also entered for turf.

◗ The $70,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes is the second of two steeplechase races to start the day. All Together and Demonstrative, the one-two finishers in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes three weeks ago, are primary contenders along with Jonathan Sheppard’s entry of One Giant Step and Italian Wedding.