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Gio Ponti Seeks Man O'War Repeat

Although still looking for his first win of 2010, dual Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti’s elite combination of class and ability makes him the overwhelming 1-2 morning line favorite in Saturday’s 52nd running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Man o’War at Belmont Park.

 

Gio Ponti heads a field of eight in the 1 3/8-mile turf race, one of four consecutive Grade 1 contests he won last year en route to Eclipse honors as both top male turf horse and older male.

 

While the 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat is thrice beaten so far this year and closed out his 2009 campaign with a pair of second-place finishes, his impressive record designates him the horse to beat. Gio Ponti most recently earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure as runner-up to stablemate Winchester in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap on June 5.

 

“As a trainer, you get very excited when you train a horse as good as he is and you go into Grade 1 races, because he just trains so well and you know he’s so good,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “So for me, and for my crew at the barn, it’s very exciting to run that kind of horse. We are lucky to be involved with that kind of horse.”

 

Despite Gio Ponti’s winless stretch, his conditioner is fully confident going into the Man o’War.

 

“I’m very happy and the horse is doing very well,” Clement said. “I had a question mark on his fitness going into the Manhattan last time, which I don’t have anymore. He had a small break after the Breeders’ Cup because we brought him back to full work earlier in the year to make the race at Tampa as a prep race for Dubai. He’s lacked a bit of racing luck in some of his races, and also it’s a question of competition. When you get to that level, you run against the best.”

 

After running second to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over Santa Anita’s synthetic surface on November 7, Gio Ponti was off until a second-place finish in the February 20 Tampa Bay Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, which he used as a prep for a fourth-place effort in the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on March 27.

 

Gio Ponti will have regular rider Ramon Dominguez in the irons as he breaks from the outside.

 

A game third in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan, Gary and Mary West’s Expansion will return in the Man o’War for another shot against Gio Ponti. Expansion was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for his wide, late-running move in that race and has rebounded nicely from the effort according to trainer Chad Brown.


“He was wide the whole way in the Manhattan and still came with a good run,” said Brown. “I monitored him closely after the race to make sure it didn’t knock him out, it was a career race for him, but the way he’s acting, I think he’s right back to where he was right before the Manhattan. I think what I’ve learned about him is that he’s a better horse once you kind of race him fit – the only race he really didn’t fire for us was the first off the layoff at Gulfstream [this winter.]”

 

Previously trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Expansion came to Brown’s barn late last year and won his first outing for his new trainer in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack on November 7. After three months off, he was fifth in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream on February 28 and fourth in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland on April 23.

 

Expansion gets the services of Javier Castellano from post position 4.

 

The 7-year-old veteran Grand Couturier, second to Expansion in the Red Smith, will also start Saturday. The son of Grand Lodge finished sixth in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in his first start of the year, then seventh after traffic trouble during the stretch run of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan.

 

“We had some trouble in the race, but it wasn’t as drastic as people have made it out to be. It just showed that he was running, which is nice,” said trainer Bobby Ribaudo. “Other than Gio Ponti, it’s a wide open race.”

 

Grand Couturier gets a rider change to Rajiv Maragh, as Alan Garcia is committed to ride elsewhere that afternoon, and the pair will break from post 6.

 

Also returning from the Woodford Reserve Manhattan are ninth- and tenth-place finishers Interpatation and Strike a Deal. Interpatation looks for his first win since an upset of Gio Ponti in a rainy edition of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont on October 3; while Strike a Deal won the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico on the Preakness Day undercard May 15 at Pimlico Race Course.

 

Stepping up in the Man o’War is Midnite Silver, who exits a 1 ¼-mile turf allowance win at Belmont on June 2 for owners Robert Hoyer and David Weaver. A 4-year-old son of Silver Deputy, the colt has two wins, one second-place finish and one fourth from four starts this year.

 

“The distance suits him and he closed fast in his last race to win,” said trainer Carl Domino. “He’ll need to run his best race, and you never know how a race will come up – I just hope everything comes up right for us on Sunday. At this moment, everything is right.”


Ian Wilkes will saddle Bearpath, runner-up in the Grade 3, 1 ½-mile Louisville Handicap on May 22 for Lothenbach Stables. The New York-bred Mission Approved – seventh in the 2008 edition of the Man o’War – completes the field.

 

The field for the Grade 1, $600,000 Man o’War:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Interpatation (KY)

J Lezcano

120

R Barbara

20-1

2

Bearpath (KY)

F Lenclud

116

I R Wilkes

12-1

3

Strike a Deal (KY)

J R Velazquez

118

A E Goldberg

10-1

4

Expansion (KY)

J Castellano

118

C C Brown

5-1

5

Mission Approved (NY)

J L Espinoza

116

N Chatterpaul

30-1

6

Grand Couturier (GB)

R Maragh

118

R Ribaudo

8-1

7

Midnite Silver (MD)

C H Velasquez

116

C J Domino

30-1

8

Gio Ponti (KY)

R A Dominguez

120

C Clement

1-2

 

 

 

 

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Older Comments about Gio Ponti Seeks Man O'War Repeat...

Cugel is right. English Channel didn't try to switch, nor should Gio Ponti
It's a no-brainer decision. It must be the BC Turf. Would be an idiotic decision to run him on a surface over which he has never raced in the BC Classic against possibly three super-horses; Zenny, Rachel, and QR. 12 furlongs may be a stretch for him but he's proven himself against the best on turf. That's where his best chance lies. Better to stand a strong chance of winning the Turf than a certain out of the money finish in the Classic.
I'm curious how Gio Ponti's connections will approach the 2010 Breeders Cup races coming up at Churchill Downs in November? There's little doubt that Gio Ponti is certainly the best America has to offer on the turf. But Gio Ponti has had difficulty winning races over 12 furlongs. Yet, this years Classic will be raced over conventional dirt. A surface that Gio Ponti has yet to try in his career. So do you race Gio Ponit unproven on conventional dirt over the 10 furlongs? Or do you throw him into the Breeders Cup Turf? Which is his best surface. But would likely prove difficult for Gio Ponti over 12 furlongs. With what's certain to be a strong Euro contingent that races regularly over 12 furlongs. Just in Sir Michael Stoute's horses alone. With Conduit now retired standing stud in Japan. It's likely Stoute will bring Spanish Moon back for another go. Also, Stoute has Harbinger. A fabulous 4yr.old colt. Who's undefeated in 2010 and most recently won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot over 12 furlongs. Stoute could also bring his explosive 3yr.old Epsom Derby champion, Workforce. Who smashed the Epsom Derby record in this year's running of the race. Plus, the John Gosden trained mare who ran 3rd in the 09' B.C. Turf, Dar Re Mi. Who won the 2010 Dubai Sheema Classic. Then there's Ballydoyle's and trainer Aidan O'Brien's brilliant 4yr.old colt, Fame and Glory. Who didn't come to last year's Breeders Cup. But has already been mentioned by O'Brien as being likely for this year's Breeders Cup Turf. Fame and Glory has already bagged the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Investec Coronation Cup so far in 2010. Any or all of these European turf horses listed would make for extremely tough competition for Gio Ponti should his connections chose to race him in the Breeders Cup Turf? JMO.
You can't keep a great horse down forever. Precisely why Gio Ponti found his way back into the winners circle today at Belmont Park. It was, however, amazing that Gio Ponti was able to find his way into the winners circle in today's Man O' War Stakes. Given that Gio Ponti likes to sit off of the pace, then slingshot by horses to propel himself to the wire. Amazing in the sense that the Man O' War had literally no pace at all throughout. With the field bunched up under "turtle like" fractions through the a first 1/4 mile of 26 and change, and a first 1/2 mile of 52 and change. Extremely slow fractions for a horse that races the way Gio Ponti does. But in the end, as they say, class will win the day. And it did today in the Man O' War.

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