Gio Ponti , winner of last year’s Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park on his way to two Eclipse Awards, gets top weight of 122 pounds in this year’s renewel of the 1 1/4-mile race as he goes against 10 others. The race will be run right before the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Gio Ponti, who was voted 2009 champion older male and champion male turf runner, will be making his third start after finishing second to champion Zenyatta in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) last November. The Christophe Clement trainee, a son of Tale of the Cat , opened this year with a runner-up effort, beaten a nose, in the Tampa Bay Stakes on grass in February and then ran a solid fourth in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in late March. Ramon Dominguez rides again.
Strike a Deal, fourth in the Manhattan two years ago, is the only one in the field with a stakes win in his last start. The son of Smart Strike won the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) at Pimlico on Preakness Day in his 2010 debut. Trained by Alan Goldberg, Strike a Deal set the pace and defeated Just as Well by a narrow margin. Strike a Deal gets a new rider in Garrett Gomez.
Just as Well, by A.P. Indy, also will give it a try in the Manhattan. Trained and owned by Jonathan Sheppard, Just as Well will be running for the third time this year and is going for his third career stakes win. He won two of them last year, including the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Can-IT). Jockey Kent Desormeaux takes over from the injured Julien Leparoux.
The Manhattan will mark a return battle between Take the Points and Court Vision , who finished one-two in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) in February. Unfortunately for Take the Points, he was disqualified for interfering with Yates Black Cat and placed fifth. He later traveled to Dubai and ran fifth in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I).
Take the Points, who will carry 121 pounds in the Mahattan compared to 120 for Court Vision, is trained by Todd Pletcher. The son of Even the Score will be ridden by Edgar Prado.
Court Vision, who opened the season in the Gulfstream Park Turf, also ran tough in his next two starts, the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (gr. IT) and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT), but finished second again in both. The son of Gulch is trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. and will be ridden once again by Robby Albarado.
Veteran warriors Interpatation and Grand Couturier are both grade I turf winners at Belmont. Interpatation, an 8-year-old son of Langfuhr , defeated Gio Ponti in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) over a soggy turf course last fall. Grand Couturier , a 7-year-old by Grand Lodge, won the stakes the previous year. The two ran in the Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT) at Belmont May 1 but failed to threaten and finished unplaced. Robert Barbara trains Interpatation, and Robert Ribaudo conditions Grand Couturier.
Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT), Belmont Park, June 5, Race 10, Time 5:36 EDT, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
Post Horse Weight Jockey
1. Gio Ponti 122 R.A. Dominguez
2. Strike a Deal 118 G. Gomez
3. Pinckney Hill 114 R. Maragh
4. Winchester 115 C. Velasquez
5. Take the Points 121 E. Prado
6. Court Vision 120 R. Albarado
7. Jet Propulsion 115 M. Garcia
8, Grand Couterier 117 A. Garcia
9. Just as Well 117 K. Desormeaux
10. Interpatation 116 J. Lezcano
11. Expansion 116 J. Castellano