Bankit returns to state-bred company in NYSSS Times Square
by Ryan Martin
Following a string of stakes starts against open company on the Kentucky Derby trail, Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing's Bankit will again face his New York-bred counterparts when he takes on ten others in Saturday's $200,000 Times Square division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the 3-year-old son of Central Banker enters the 6 ½ furlong event for sophomores off a distant seventh in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 23 at Fair Grounds, where he was beaten 9 ¾ lengths behind By My Standards.
Both of Bankit's career wins, out of nine starts, took place when competing against New York-breds and both triumphs were impressive. When breaking his maiden at second asking over a fast main track at Saratoga on July 27, he won by 6 ¾ lengths. Three starts later, he defeated stakes company in Belmont Park's Sleepy Hollow on October 20, winning by 5 ¾ lengths.
In both starts, Bankit displayed a frontrunning style, however in his trio of starts as a 3-year-old he has tended to sit well off the pace.
"We've always had quite a bit of confidence in the horse," said Winchell's Racing and Bloodstock Manager David Fiske. "As the competition he's been up against has gotten stronger, it's been harder for him to close all of that ground. In most of his races last year, he's been up closer to the pace. He seems to like it up in New York a lot more than he does the Midwest or the south.
"He's been at a disadvantage in a couple of his races where he had wide posts and didn't have enough giddy-up to get in a good position coming out of the gate. I would expect him to be not too far off the pace."
Bankit will be piloted by Joe Bravo from post four.
A $260,000 purchase from the Ocala Breeders Sales Company's Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale last March, Bankit is the first progeny out of the Colonel John broodmare Sister in Arms. He was bred in New York by Hidden Brook Farm and Blue Devil Racing.
Trainer Linda Rice sends out a pair of dual winners in Blindwillie McTell and Captain Frost.
The former is a two-time stakes winner who took the NYSSS Great White Way division on December 16 and the Rego Park on January 13. A distant second in his career debut at the Big A on November 17, the son of Posse was a 2 ½ length winner of the Great White Way in his second career start, which took place over a sloppy main track. His winning ways were replicated in his 2019 debut, taking the Rego Park by three-quarters of a length on January 13.
"'Blindwillie' had won the two stakes and had gotten an infection in a hind ankle; he got it cut when he left the gate stumbling at the break," Rice said. "He's coming back very well."
Named after a well-known ragtime musician, Blindwillie McTell will break from post eight and will be guided by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Rice will also saddle Captain Frost, who makes his stakes debut Saturday. The son of Frost Giant broke his maiden by 8 ½ lengths for a $50,000 tag on December 31 over a good main track at Aqueduct. Next out, he was a 1 ½ length winner of a starter optional claiming event on February 28.
"Captain Frost probably likes more distance," Rice said. "But it is a stallion stakes with a big purse, so we thought we'd see if we can get a decent check out of it."
Breaking from post 10, jockey Eric Cancel has the call on Captain Frost.
Rounding out the field are Kosciuszko (post one, Jose Lezcano), Hushion (post two, Mike Luzzi), Seed Money (post three, Reylu Gutierrez), Funny Guy (post five, Rajiv Maragh), The Big Lebanese (post six, Dylan Davis), Bebe Banker (post seven, Samuel Camacho, Jr.), Ventus (post nine, Hector Diaz, Jr.) and Thorny Tale (post 11, Manny Franco).
The Times Square is slated as Race 9 as one of three features on the closing day card including the Park Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series and the $100,000 Woodhaven. First post time on Saturday's nine-race card is 1:30 p.m.