The Brock Talk

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Champion Gio Ponti Makes 2010 Debut.

There's plenty to keep our attention this weekend with the Fountain of Youth, Risen Star and Southwest Stakes providing us plenty of pre-Kentucky Derby fodder, but flying a bit under the radar at Tampa Bay Downs will be the return of 2009 Champion Older Horse and Champion Turf horse Gio Ponti.

In what could be the most exciting year for older horses since the Cigar years of the mid-1990s, Quality Road has already made a splash with victories in the Hal's Hope Stakes and a track record performance in the grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Zenyatta are set to meet April 9 in the grade 1 Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn and Gio Ponti makes his 2010 debut in the $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup among a field of nine at 1-1/16 miles on the turf. Other older horses still waiting in the wings but expected back this year include Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Einstein and Presious Passion to name a few of the stars in the division.

Trainer Christophe Clemente has said he is using the Tampa Bay race to prepare Gio Ponti for the $10 million Dubai World Cup to be run March 27 at the new Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates.

During his championship year, Gio Ponti rattled off four consecutive grade 1 turf victories in California, New York and Illinois before being upset by Interpatation in the Turf Classic (gr. 1) at Belmont Park in October then getting passed in the final strides of the Breeders' Cup Classic by Zenyatta in November. Last year the son of Tale of the Cat earned $2.33 million from his seven starts boosting his career bankroll over the $3.1 million mark.

Rachel Alexandra Posts Thursday Work
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra went to the track for a serious work Thursday morning going five furlongs in 1:00.20 in a work Marcus Hersh of Daily Racing Form called a "doozy" and trainer Steve Asmussen coined "overly aggressive."

Asmussen also told Daily Racing Form that "very aggressive all week, and she worked accordingly. There's still time to get exactly where we want to be. Once she got into her work, she settled down nicely."

Rachel Alexandra is preparing for the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 13 at Fair Grounds and eventually the $5-million Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park April 9.

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