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Winchester, Gio Ponti to Work This Weekend

Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Winchester, winner of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational, and Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, runner-up in the Grade 1 Arlington Million, are expected to return to the worktab this weekend, according to Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement.


“We want to call to see if we can work them on the turf this weekend,” said Lorieul.


Lorieul said Winchester is likely to bypass the September 10 Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park , in which he was second last year before going on to win the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational.


“You never feel blasé winning a graded stakes, but he just won a Grade 1 and he hasn’t run very much all year,” said Lorieul. “There are a few options: the [Joe Hirsch] Turf Classic [Grade 1, Belmont Park , October 1] and a race in Canada called the Northern Dancer [Grade 1, Woodbine, September 18].”


Lorieul said Claiborne Farm’s and Adele Dilschneider’s Grassy, winner of last year’s Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap, likely will run in Winchester ’s place in the Bowling Green .


Meanwhile, the Clement barn is trying to devise autumn plans for Gio Ponti, the two-time reigning Champion Male Turf Horse. Last year, Gio Ponti won the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile and was second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile. The 2011 Shadwell Turf Mile will be contested October 8 at Keeneland, with the Breeders’ Cup Mile to be held November 5 at Churchill Downs.


“We nominated him to the Woodbine Mile [Grade 1, September 18],” said Lorieul. “They were talking about doing the [Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile, and Breeders’ Cup Mile], but I think it’s going to be too close together. You’d have to go to Woodbine, come back, and go to Keeneland. What do you do after? Leave him at Keeneland and train? The boss is not there, and he doesn’t want to leave him there by himself the entire time leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.”


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