General Banker after his victory in the $500K NYSSS Great White Way (Susie Raisher)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England owner John Forma’s relationship with prominent New York breeder and owner Joe McMahon came full circle Saturday as General Banker, a son of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds stallion Central Banker, took the $500,000 NYSSS Great White Way for eligible state-sired juveniles sprinting seven furlongs at the Big A.
The Great White Way was the final stakes before a 10-day holiday break from December 19 through December 28. Live racing will return to the Big A for the final three cards of the fall meet on Thursday, December 29 with the 2022 schedule concluding on Saturday, December 31.
Forma, who owns a share in Central Banker and grew up attending the races at Aqueduct, said winning a $500,000 stakes with his longtime friend was particularly special.
“Joe McMahon has been a friend of mine forever and we’ve known each other since the mid-70s,” said Forma. “I was born in Brooklyn and my mother used to take me to Aqueduct when I was 14. That caused my love for horses, so I’ve been around them my whole life. I’m in the oil business and I’m a wildcatter, so I drill for oil and gas all over the country, and gambling is something I’m used to.”
General Banker, who entered the Great White Way from two runner-up efforts at the maiden level for trainer Jimmy Ferraro, sported blinkers for the third time and graduated in style under returning rider Eric Cancel, coasting home 8 1/2 lengths clear over the muddy and sealed main track. The dark bay colt had received some therapeutic massage since his last effort on November 26 at the Big A, something Forma said made all the difference Saturday.
“For one thing, he likes an off track and the rider knew him, so there was a path for him to win,” said Forma. “Cancel told Jimmy, ‘He could be off a little in the back.’ I told Jimmy to get ahold of a masseuse I know and she gave him four massages. I really believe that, and the blinkers, made the difference. I give credit to Cancel though. He tipped off Jimmy.”
Forma has based his breeding operation at McMahon of Saratoga for several years while residing in Portsmouth, N.H., where he moved to in 1996 after living in Westchester, N.Y. for several years. His current residency is what inspired the name of his operation, Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England.
Forma said breeding his horses in New York has been a wise decision.
“I’ll tell you, the New York breeding program is phenomenal. If you’re racing horses and you’re not breeding horses in New York, you’re crazy,” said Forma, with a laugh. “The additional revenues are great. I own part of Central Banker, so that’s even better. I found a unique way of being in this business.”
Out of the Johannesburg mare Elusive Jozi, who Forma claimed in 2013 at Belmont Park, General Banker is a product of two horses owned wholly or in part by Forma, something he said he is proud of.
“He’s a homebred because when I was looking for broodmares, I saw his mother, who made over $200,000 with pretty good breeding, was in a $20,000 claimer,” said Forma. “I said, ‘Gee, I think I’ll just claim this horse and make her a broodmare.’ That’s how this horse got where he is today.”
With both his maiden broken and his first stakes under his belt, General Banker will now set his sights on bigger goals this spring as Forma dreams of a trip to Churchill Downs on the First Saturday in May.
“We’ll give him a month or two off and then look for an open stakes race,” said Forma. “Let’s find out how good he really is. He’s got $345,000 in earnings already and he’s only a 2-year-old. If he could win an open stakes race, he could be set for the Kentucky Derby. You’ve got to have pipe dreams. The sky’s the limit unless he tells me something different, and I’ll be listening to him. A lot of people think I’m crazy, but they even thought I was crazy when I went in there with a maiden yesterday.”