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Gio Ponti rallies to take Woodford reserve Manhattan

ELMONT, N.Y. – With a tremendous run down the middle of the stretch, Castleton Lyons Farm’s Gio Ponti scored his second consecutive Grade 1 victory as he went from last to first in the 108th running of the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park.

Under a confident ride from jockey Garrett Gomez, the four-year-old son of Tale of the Cat was content to lag in 12th position as Optimer carried the field through early fractions of 24.38 and 49.08 over the yielding turf course. Favored Cowboy Cal moved up to take over the lead straightening for home, then yielded to Cosmonaut, but Gio Ponti barreled widest of all through the final furlong and went on to a 1 1/2–length victory over Marsh Side.

“I was a little worried because I was so far back,” said Gomez. “It seemed like I was a little further back then I needed to be … I squeezed him just a little bit in the middle of the turn and I looked up and they were starting to stagger, so I just sat there for a second, and you know he put in a nice run, ran a really good race. He's never really run a bad race for me and he continues to just get better with age.”

His winning time was 2:02.91 for the mile and one-quarter.

“It was a very good race to see him come from last to first,” said winning trainer Christophe Clement, who also won the 2001 edition of the Manhattan with Arthur Appleton’s Forbidden Apple. “He’s a good horse.”

Gio Ponti, who won the Grade 3 Hill Prince here last year and finished second in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap, had scored his first Grade 1 victory in March at Santa Anita, when he rallied to nose out Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Sprint winner Ventura in the Frank Kilroe Handicap Mile. Saturday’s victory extended his lifetime record to seven wins from 12 starts, with two seconds, and the winner’s purse of $240,000 boosted his bankroll to $1,245,800.

He returned $9.20 for a $2 win bet.

Marsh Side, ridden by Javier Castellano, was a length and one-half in front of Better Talk Now, the 10-year-old gelding who also rallied stoutly to gain third in his 50th career start.

“I am really thrilled,” said H. Graham Motion, trainer of Better Talk Now. “I wanted to see exactly where he was and I think today he showed that he is back.”

Completing the order of finish were Court Vision, Cosmonaut, Interpatation, Lauro (GER), Wesley, Cowboy Cal, Zambezi Sun (GB), Optimer (ARG) and Senior.


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