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Winchester Upsets Stablemate Gio Ponti

Winchester captures the 2008 Secretariat at Arlington

Trainer Christophe Clement won the 109th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan, just not with the horse everyone expected.

 

As favored Gio Ponti, the defending champion, steadied sharply in traffic on the far turn, long shot Winchester swung six wide with a quarter-mile to run for jockey Cornelio Velasquez and blew past a wall of four horses in deep stretch to win by a half-length.

 

Once Gio Ponti’s rider, Ramon Dominguez, found room, the dual Eclipse Award-winning turf champion surged into contention with a furlong to go, briefly gaining the lead before his stablemate went by.

 

The winner, a 5-year-old son of Theatrical bred and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, picked up the second Grade 1 victory of his career, completing the 1¼-mile fixture in 1:59.46 on an inner turf course labeled firm.

 

At odds of 21.40-to-1, Winchester paid $44.80 for a $2 win ticket and keyed an all-Clement exacta that paid $147.

 

After completing his 1-2 punch, the trainer, taking the Manhattan for the third time, was elated in the winner’s circle.

 

“He ran a great race, and I am delighted,” said Clement, who along with Gio Ponti last year also sent out Forbidden Apple to take the 2001 Manhattan. “Gio Ponti was pinned inside. The two horses worked remarkably together last Sunday. Winchester comes from far out of it; I thought softer ground would serve him well, but for some reason horses are coming from out of it today.”

 

The field assembled for the Manhattan was likely the strongest for any turf race in the country this year, with six millionaires in the field of 11.

 

Trainer Martin Wolfson sent his speedy Jet Propulsion up from Florida, believing his gelding could control the pace, and the 7-year-old led the field through a half mile in 48.94 and a mile in 1:36.46 stalked by long shot Interpatation and Take the Points.

 

After saving ground most of the way, Take the Points seized the lead on the far turn and opened up a 1¼-length lead, but the field soon engulfed him. Expansion, another long shot, charged into contention inside the eighth pole; Gio Ponti attacked on the inside; Just as Well rallied before steadying late; but it was Winchester with clear sailing on the far outside.

 

“I saw there was traffic on the inside, so I decided to go outside,” Velasquez said. “He probably had the best trip in the race.”

 

Gio Ponti, the champion older horse and turf horse from 2009, has now dropped five straight races, but he ran well enough to win.


“I don’t know what happened to Interpatation at the three-eighths pole, but he got squeezed and we had to check sharply since we were right behind him. I had to take a hold of him and drift out, then go back inside,” said Gio Ponti’s jockey, Ramon Dominguez. “I’m not going to make any excuses. He ran well, and he ran hard.”

 

Expansion, under Javier Castellano, took third.

 

With the victory, Winchester won a stakes race for the first time since taking the Grade 1 Secretariat in his 3-year-old season. He now has four victories from 16 lifetime starts with earnings of $672,243.

 

 

 

 

 

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