N.Y. Millionaire Bankit Returns to Laurel for $100K Frank Whiteley

April 13, 2023

Bankit winning the Campbell at Laurel Park. (Jim McCue/MJC)

Connections Hoping to Live the ‘Dream’ in $100,000 Heavenly Cause
• Preakness (G1) ‘Win and In’ Federico Tesio for 3YOs Tops 11-Race Card

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md.— Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s well-traveled millionaire Bankit will seek his first win of the year and eighth career stakes victory when he returns to Maryland for the first time in two years for Saturday’s $100,000 Frank Y. Whiteley at Laurel Park.

The 11th running of the seven-furlong Whiteley for 3-year-olds and up and 21st renewal of the $100,000 Heavenly Cause for fillies and mares 3 and older going one mile serve as supporting stakes on an 11-race program headlined by the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds and $125,000 Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies.

First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

It is the first of back-to-back Spring Stakes Spectacular Saturdays at Laurel, followed by an April 22 program featuring five $100,000 stakes including the first three of the season scheduled for Laurel’s world-class turf course. The Tesio is a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20, while the Weber City Miss earns the winner an automatic berth in the 99th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 19.

Seven of Bankit’s eight lifetime wins have come in stakes at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. Six of those stakes wins were against fellow state-breds in New York, where he was named champion older male of 2021.

Bankit’s lone open stakes win came during his championship season, when he rallied from an 8 ½-length deficit to win the 1 1/16-mile John B. Campbell by 1 ¾ lengths in February 2021, his lone prior trip to Maryland. The earner of nearly $1.3 million in purses, part of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s Belmont Park string, has also raced in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Dubai.

“He doesn’t seem to care where he runs. He’ll run a good race no matter where he goes, so we’ve never been shy about taking him anywhere,” Winchell’s racing manager David Fiske said. “He’s kind of been all over the place, and he’s awfully consistent.”

Now 7, Bankit has been third or better in 26 of 38 lifetime starts with at least one stakes win in each of his first five seasons of racing dating back to the 2018 Sleepy Hollow at Belmont, six months after the son of Central Banker was purchased for $260,000 as a 2-year-old in training.

“Originally when we bought him, we hoped he was going to be good, but they’re pretty fragile commodities. The longevity that he’s displayed, you hope for them to be good for a long time but that almost never happens,” Fiske said. “He’s exceeded our expectations.”

Bankit has also placed in 15 other stakes including back-to-back efforts at Aqueduct to open this season, beaten less than a length combined. Second in the 2020 Razorback Handicap (G2) at Oaklawn Park, he will be facing open company for the first time since running sixth in the Godolphin Mile (G2) last March at Meydan Racecourse.

“He’s a professional. He likes his job,” Fiske said. “Different tracks, different distances, you could probably run him daytime, nighttime, uphill, downhill, wherever you want to run him. He almost always shows up.

“He seems to always try when he goes out there,” he added. “He’s always close, and he always brings home a check. He’s just very consistent.”

Sheldon Russell, aboard in the 2021 Campbell, rides back from Post 7 in a field of 10.

Among the solid field assembled to oppose Bankit are Grade 3 winners Eastern Bay and Informative and fellow multiple stakes winners Alwaysinahurry, Factor It In, Kenny Had a Notion and Witty. Mopo Racing’s Alwaysinahurry won the 2021 Concern and 2022 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial at Laurel, placed in three other stakes and exits a late-running third in an open six-furlong allowance March 19.

Arkofa Farm’s Kenny Had a Notion is coming off a second at odds of 41-1 in the Not For Love at Laurel, where he won the 2020 Jamestown and Maryland Million Nursery and 2021 Spectacular Bid. Elizabeth Merryman’s homebred Witty won the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid in 2022 and returned from 166 days between starts to win a six-furlong optional claiming allowance March 8 at Parx.

Built Right Stables’ millionaire Eastern Bay followed up his first graded-stakes victory in the seven-furlong General George (G3) running fourth by two lengths in the Tom Fool (G3) March 4 at Aqueduct and third by 1 ½ lengths in the March 18 Not For Love at Laurel, both sprinting six furlongs. Of his 19 lifetime wins, 15 have come at Laurel.

Third by a half-length and a neck, respectively, in the Bold Ruler (G3) and Fall Highweight (G3) last fall at Aqueduct, Laurel-based Factor It In won the Dave’s Friend and Fire Plug in succession before running fourth as the favorite in the General George Feb. 18. The Michael Scheffres colorbearer returned to the winner’s circle last out in a six-furlong allowance March 19 over his home track.

Trin-Brook Stables, Inc.’s Informative captured the 1 1/16-mile Philip Iselin (G3) last summer at Monmouth Park and has gone unraced since running last of four in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward (G1) in October at Aqueduct. The 6-year-old son of Bodemeister is cutting back to a sprint for the first time since finishing fifth in a 6 ½-furlong allowance in March 2021 at Parx.

Whereshetoldmetogo (#3 outside) duels Jaxon Traveler for the win in the Not For Love at Laurel Park March 19, 2022. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

Brittany Russell won the Whiteley in 2020 with Whereshetoldmetogo, and the newly minted Grade 1-winning trainer returns this year with George Sharp’s Hello Hot Rod. The 5-year-old gelding was sold at auction after his victory in the 2021 Jimmy Winkfield sprinting seven furlongs at Aqueduct for Russell, who had the horse sent back to her earlier this year.

In two starts since his return, each at one mile, Hello Hot Rod ran third in an open allowance over a sealed muddy track Feb. 12 and seventh after setting the pace in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial March 18. The Whiteley will be his first time sprinting since October at Remington Park.

“I blew him out [Tuesday] morning and he went really well,” Russell said. “I think last time was a terrible race. Two races back was a pretty good effort. Last time I don’t know, honestly. We never really found an excuse. I think he likes to run pretty close to the lead. He likes to be on the lead [but] I doubt he’ll have the lead in this race so that’s a little bit of a question mark. He’s done well since and I think the seven-eighths is something he enjoys, so it’ll be nice to get him back to seven furlongs and see where we are with him.”

Jevian Toledo rides Hello Hot Rod from outermost Post 10.

Multiple stakes-placed Al Loves Josie, a winner of back-to-back six-furlong sprints at Laurel Feb. 11 and 25, and Yodel E. A. Who, third in three straight races including the Fire Plug and General George, complete the field.

The Whiteley honors the Centreville, Md. native best known as of the trainer of Ruffian, ranked among the greatest fillies of all time, as well as fellow superstars Damascus and Forego and 1965 Preakness winner Tom Rolfe. Whiteley joined Ruffian and Damascus in racing’s Hall of Fame in 1978 and was followed by Forego in 1979. He retired in 1984 after a career spanning six decades and died in Camden, S.C. in 2008 at age 93.

“For a different and unique perspective on horse racing, I read Jonathan Stettin’s Past the Wire.” Mike Smith, Hall of Fame, Triple Crown winning jockey

Mike Smith View testimonials