Gio Ponti, attempting to make amends after a troubled trip as the choice in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) a month ago, figures to draw considerable attention in a contentious field for the $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita opening day program Dec. 26.
Thirteen 3-year-olds are signed on for the one-mile grass event and most are in good form. If two-time graded stakes winner Gio Ponti, owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement, is to make his presence felt this time around, the son of Tale of the Cat will have to overcome the disadvantageous post 12.
Garrett Gomez, who was aboard Gio Ponti when the colt was blocked for a considerable portion of the stretch run in the 10-furlong Hollywood Derby, has the call once again. Gio Ponti wound up seventh in the calvary charge as the 3-1 pick, but was just 2 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Court Vision.
Gio Ponti won Belmont Park's Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) at the one-mile distance with Gomez aboard by two lengths in June. They came right back to team for a nose victory over Court Vision in the nine-furlong Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) six weeks later. Gio Ponti has suffered three straight setbacks since then, including a second-place finish to Madeo by a half-length in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) following a wide trip. Gio Ponti enters with a 4-2-0 record in eight starts and earnings of $760,800.
Sky Cape, winner of Del Mar's La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) last summer, gets back into action after a four-month layoff for trainer Kristin Mulhall. The son of Najran has not been seen since fading to seventh after pressing the pace in the Del Mar Derby Aug. 31. The chestnut colt had a three-race win streak prior to that, topped by his 1 1/2-length victory in the La Jolla at odds of 12-1.
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Fifteen Love performed well in his American debut for trainer Bobby Frankel, rallying from last to just miss second money in the off-the-turf War Chant Stakes at Hollywood Park Nov. 27. The Point Given colt won four times in England, including the Totesport Mile at Goodwood in August. He has earned $344,116 in his career.
West Point Thoroughbreds' El Gato Malo, a grade III winner on dirt and synthetic surfaces, makes his turf debut for trainer Craig Dollase. After a 6 1/2-month absence following his win in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) May 10, the El Corredor gelding returned to run fourth in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance heat at Hollywood Park Nov. 30. El Gato Malo has been favored in all but one of his seven lifetime starts, winning four times with earnings of $444,160. Dollase also enters Ghetto.
Ten Meropa, a son of Johannesburg who began his career in Great Britain, won the Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) over Santa Anita's hillside turf course in his U.S. bow last March and tries two turns for the first time for trainer Jeff Mullins.
Alex G. Campbell Jr.'s Il Girasole, undefeated in two starts -- including a victory over a first-level allowance field going one mile at Hollywood Park Dec. 7 -- makes his graded stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. The Lemon Drop Kid colt is stuck on the far outside, however.
Also coming into the Sir Beaufort off last-race wins are Dakota Phone, Icemancometh, Liberian Freighter, and Medjool.
$100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 3:20 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Liberian Freighter (CA), 118, David R. Flores
2. Sky Cape (KY), 122, Joel Rosario
3. Dakota Phone (KY), 120, Jose Valdivia Jr.
4. Fifteen Love (KY), 122, Edgar S. Prado
5. Medjool (KY), 118, Martin Garcia
6. Icemancometh (IRE), 118, Mike E. Smith
7. Young Joe (CA), 118, Joseph Talamo
8. Ten Meropa (KY), 118, Brice Blanc
9. El Gato Malo (KY), 118, Rafael Bejarano
10. Ghetto (GB), 118, Michael C. Baze
11. Pistol Pete Afleet (FL), 118, Aaron T. Gryder
12. Gio Ponti (KY), 122, Garrett K. Gomez
13. Il Girasole (KY), 118, Victor Espinoza