Photo by Chelsea Durand
By Keith McCalmont
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England’s New York homebred General Banker rallied impressively down the lane to break his maiden in Saturday’s $500,000 Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series, a seven-furlong sprint for eligible New York-sired juveniles, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by James Ferraro and piloted by Eric Cancel, the Central Banker colt was making his eighth career start as the most experienced horse in the 11-horse field. He proved to be much the best en route to an 8 1/2-length score over a muddy and sealed main track.
The victory capped a special afternoon for McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, who stand Central Banker and also Redesdale, who sired runner-up Ramblin’ Wreck as well as filly Midtown Lights, who finished second in the $500,000 NYSSS Fifth Avenue earlier on the card.
“Central Banker has been so much fun,” said Joseph McMahon, owner of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds. “He just keeps coming up with nice horses. It’s a real credit to our syndicate, our help, and everybody. We’re having a great run.
“This is really nice for this owner, John Forma [of Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England],” added McMahon. “He’s been with us for about 40 years now. He’s a great guy and this is a big win for him, the biggest win he’s ever had. We’re really glad for Jimmy [Ferraro], who has been one of our guys forever.”
General Banker settled in fifth position as maiden-winner Playingwithmatches set splits of 22.91 seconds and 46.67 with the favored Vacation Dance, last-out winner of the Atlantic Beach over the Big A turf, tracking in second position in his main-track debut.
Vacation Dance challenged into the turn with Ramblin’ Wreck launching his wide bid under Manny Franco and General Banker angling wider still, vaulting into contention with big strides. Ramblin’ Wreck held a precarious lead at the stretch call as Vacation Dance faded, but a rampant General Banker could not be contained, sprinting through the wire an emphatic winner in a final time of 1:25.49.
Ramblin’ Wreck stayed on to complete the exacta by one length over Lifetime of Chance with Playingwithmatches, Bustino Santino, Zapruder, Jackson Heights, Vacation Dance, Incantation, Tater and Tot and Laurel Valley completing the order of finish.
Cancel, aboard for a last-out runner-up effort from off-the-pace here on November 26, said General Banker was a stronger horse today.
“To be honest, when I rode him last time, I kind of felt he was weak in behind,” Cancel said. “I spoke to the trainer, and he agreed with me and said he was going to work on him, which he did, and here are the results. He’s a pretty decent horse and we had very high hopes with him.
“Today, he broke much better and didn’t have any problems. That really helped a lot and I’m just glad we were able to get it,” Cancel added. “I felt I had a lot of horse underneath me still [down the stretch] and I was just trying to time everything right. He was just waiting on horses at the end to try and keep on going.”
General Banker began his career with a pair of starts on turf at Saratoga Race Course before finishing fourth in the Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital over a muddy and sealed Spa main track in August. He posted a pair of fifth-place efforts in September at Belmont at the Big A, finishing behind victorious Great White Way rivals Ramblin’ Wreck in a turf maiden and Jackson Heights in the Bertram F. Bongard on the main track for state-breds.
He added blinkers for his most recent two starts here, finishing second in state-bred company traveling 1 1/16-miles over the turf in October and in a main-track sprint last out on November 26.
Ferraro said the addition of blinkers and an off track benefitted General Banker.
“There wasn’t much time to do much, but we did very little things here and there. He’s improving,” Ferraro said. “I think [the blinkers] helped him to focus. He’s very intuitive and looking all over the place.
“I thought he was in a great spot,” Ferraro added. “Those Central Bankers love the mud. In Saratoga, he was still really green. He’s still learning things.”
Ferraro said General Banker could return in the $100,000 Gander, a one-turn mile for state-bred sophomores on February 25 at Aqueduct.
General Banker earned $275,000 in victory while improving his record 8-1-3-0. He returned $23 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a 10-race card. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.