Central Banker duo highlight Friday’s Saratoga stakes

Friday, August 12th, 2022

Bank On Anna tops older fillies and mares and becomes the latest stakes winner for Central Banker in Friday’s Union Avenue. NYRA Photo.

Bank On Anna became the second stakes winner of the 2022 Saratoga Race Course meeting for leading New York sire Central Banker when she topped her elders in Friday’s $125,000 Union Avenue Handicap.

WellSpring Stable’s 3-year-old filly joined Dream Central, who took the Suzie O’Cain the first Wednesday of the meet, as stakes winners at the meet for Central Banker. Bank On Anna won the 6-furlong Union Avenue by 2 3/4 lengths over Snicket under jockey Jose Lezcano for trainer Phil Serpe.

Bred by Lou Corrente, foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs and a $46,000 RNA at the Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Showcase in September 2020, Bank On Anna improved to 4-for-8 in the Union Avenue. She came in off a fifth in an open-company allowance race July 23 at Saratoga.

“She’s just a solid horse,” Serpe said. “Without making up excuses, she had a rough trip last time out. Broke kind of flat-footed and got squeezed in on the rail and just lost all chance after that. She’s been really training well up to this race, so we’re really happy.”

The Union Avenue was one of three New York-bred stakes on Friday’s card, which coincided with a luncheon honoring the nominees for the 2021 New York-bred championships in the 1863 Club followed in the evening by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders’ Annual Awards event at Fasig-Tipton.

“We’ve had so many nice New York-breds because of Flying Z Stable, Mr. and Mrs. Broman and now Dr. V. [Dr. Robert Vukovich of owner WellSpring Stables] and his wife Laura,” Serpe said. “These races are great. The New York-bred program is just a really good program for people. For a lot of money or not so much money, you can get in on some really solid horses and you’ve got to really like the programs they have here because there are stake races at every meet – Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont – and it’s just a good program.”

Bankit (left) edges defending Evan Shipman winner Sea Foam in the final strides Friday at Saratoga. NYRA Photo.

Bankit returned to the New York-bred program in the $125,000 Evan Shipman Handicap and came away with yet another stakes victory. The 6-year-old son of Central Banker won the 1-mile Evan Shipman off an almost five-month layoff, after finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Godolphin Mile in late March at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing and trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Bankit wore down a stubborn Sea Foam in the final strides for his sixth stakes victory. He won by a nose as the 2-1 second choice, getting the mile out of the Wilson Chute in 1:39.24.

Bankit was expected to run in the Commentator on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park on Memorial Day, but when that race didn’t fill Asmussen opted to wait for Saratoga.

“He gutted it out today,” Asmussen said. “The race didn’t fill for him last time and he ended up having a trapped epiglottis and had that cured. A couple breezes back and he’s all class. I can’t say how proud we are of him. Sea Foam has always run extremely well here at Saratoga and it was nice to come out on the right end of that.

“I was really worried about it at about the sixteenth pole. He got there, but he just gutted it out in the last part. He’s an extremely classy horse, he’s always been so.”

Bred by Hidden Brook Farm and Blue Devil Racing and foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, Bankit passed the seven-figure mark with his 13 ¼-length victory in last year’s Commentator at Belmont. He improved to 7-for-34 with 15 placings and earnings of $1,149,655 in the Evan Shipman.

“He’s run some extremely good races and had a million in the bank before he got here today and it’s just great to have a New York-bred stake here at Saratoga for him,” Asmussen said. “It was a perfect spot and what he needed right now. He’s extremely durable physically and mentally, and we expect him to be a quality New York-bred for a long time to come.”

Wudda U Think Now gets Rudy Rodriguez in the win column at Saratoga in the John Morrissey. NYRA Photo.

The Elkstone Group’s Wudda U Think Now kicked off the stakes action early on Friday’s card with an upset victory in the $121,250 John Morrissey Handicap for older sprinters.

Sent off the 6-1 fourth choice in the field of five, the 5-year-old Fast Anna gelding tracked Saint Selby early, made a bid around the far turn and re-rallied in deep stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Reggae Music Man. Saint Selby finished another head back in third with 6-5 favorite Ny Traffic fourth. Wearing blinkers for the first time, Wudda U Think Now won in 1:11.65 over the fast track under Trevor McCarthy.

“I’m not sure about the blinkers,” winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “I know he’s been breaking a little slow, but I think he was breaking slow because he was dealing with a quarter crack for almost four months right after the [victory in the Feb. 19 Hollie Hughes]. I couldn’t get him right – I patched him, took the patch off – all the credit goes to Stuart Grant. He’s very patient. Owners that are patient like that make our life easy.

“He’s a nice horse and he’s as solid as they come. We just have to be patient with him and take it from there.”

Bred by Mina Equivest LLC, foaled at Five Oak Farm in Saratoga and out of the Unbridled Jet mare Unbridled Grace, Wudda U Think Now improved to 7-for-16 with the victory and boosted his earnings to $429,750. He also gave Rodriguez his first win of the meet, ending a drought of 0-for-44 to start the 2022 season.

“It’s amazing,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to sleep good.”

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