Gio Ponti Looks For Three-Peat In Saturday's Man O'War
By New York Racing Association
ELMONT, N.Y. – Reigning turf champion Gio Ponti will be chasing history Saturday when he tries to become the first horse to win three editions of the $600,000 Man o’ War Stakes, the final Grade 1 of Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet.
There have been three other horses who, like the 6-year-old Gio Ponti, have put together back-to-back victories in the 1 3/8-mile turf race, first run in 1959: Majesty’s Prince (1983-84), Solar Splendor (1991-92) and With Anticipation (2001-02), but a third win has proven elusive. Indeed, no horse has been able to string together three straight wins in any of The New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) major distance turf races – the Man o’ War, the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, or the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, although Bolingbroke won three runnings of the venerable Manhattan in 1940, 1942 and 1943 when it was contested on dirt.
Fans can watch and wager on the race, as well as the rest of the country's weekend races, at Gulfstream Park.
“A record-breaking third win in the Man o’ War would be a great achievement at a track where Gio Ponti has enjoyed some remarkable days in his illustrious career to date,” said Shane Ryan, president of Castleton Lyons, Gio Ponti’s owner and breeder. “However as always these Grade 1’s are never easily won. We respect the opposition and hope that Gio Ponti runs his best race on Saturday. With three Eclipse Awards and Grade 1 victories at Santa Anita, Keeneland, Arlington and Belmont we are delighted with his career over the last few years and hope that he can add to these achievements on Saturday.”
A field of seven was entered for the Man o’ War, with Gio Ponti listed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite as he bids for his first win of 2011. A close-up fifth in the Dubai World Cup, Gio Ponti next finished third over a yielding course while conceding eight pounds to 21-1 Mission Approved in the Manhattan on June 11. Overall, Gio Ponti is 11-8-1 from 25 starts with earnings of $5,377,800.
“It’s exciting, you know? It’s a big Grade 1 and he’s won it the last two years so let’s try to do it a third time,” said trainer Christophe Clement of Gio Ponti, America’s champion turf horse in 2009 and 2010 and champion older male in 2009.Clement. “It’s New York – it’s never easy.”
Ramon Dominguez is back aboard Gio Ponti, who drew post position 5 at 120 pounds, getting three pounds from Mission Approved.
The Man o’ War takes on an international flavor with the inclusion of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Cape Blanco, a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe who will be making his stateside debut. Fourth just ahead of Gio Ponti in the Dubai World Cup, the 4-year-old Irish-bred Galileo colt subsequently was fourth in the Group 1 Prix Ganay-Prix Air Mauritius at Longchamp and sixth behind Canford Cliffs and Goldikova in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Ascot on June 14.
Jamie Spencer comes in to ride Cape Blanco, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, from the outside.
Mission Approved, second to Gio Ponti in last year’s Man o’ War off the $35,000 claim by trainer and co-owner Naipaul Chatterpaul, returned from an 11-month layoff to spring the Manhattan upset over a yielding course.
“He’s doing awesome,” said Chatterpaul, who owns the 7-year-old with Terikchand Chatterpaul. “I think he is going to ruin a big race.”
Jose Espinoza has the mount aboard Mission Approved, 5-1 on the morning line from the rail.
Taking a big step up in class is the Phipps Stable’s Boisterous, making his first start in a graded stakes after winning two of his three 2011 starts, including the Three Coins Up overnight stakes on May 22.
“I think he continues to improve,” said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. “Whether he improves enough to be able to run with Gio Ponti and Bearpath and some of them, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
John Velazquez rides Boisterous, 6-1 on the morning line, from post position 3.
Seeking his first Grade 1 victory is Bearpath, who was fourth, beaten less than two lengths, in last year’s Man o’ War. Most recently, the 5-year-old gelded son of Dynaformer was nosed out at the wire in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap on May 28.
“You don’t have a lot of choices with a 1 ½-mile horse,” said trainer Ian Wilkes. “We think he’s a Grade 1 cailbre horse; he’s just got to get a notch better. He’s a bigger, stronger horse now, and I am very happy with him.”
Bearpath will leaves from post position 2 with Frederic Lenclud aboard at 8-1 on the morning line.
Also at 8-1 on the morning line is Al Khali, who won the Grade 3 Bowling Green at the Man o’ War distance last September and was most recently fourth in the 2011 Man o’ War. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro ridgling drew post position 4 with Alan Garcia aboard as he seeks to snap a six-race winless streak.
Completing the field is Nownownow, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner who was fifth in the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes on June 12.