Trainer Christophe Clement reported that Gio Ponti , second as the heavy favorite in Belmont’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) Oct. 3 behind longshot Interpatation, had come out of the race in good order.
“He’s tired, yes,” said Clement, who trains the 4-year-old for Castleton Lyons’ principal Shane Ryan. “A mile and a half on that turf course yesterday was very trying, but I thought he ran a great race. He came from off the pace, cruising, and tired. Even if he didn’t win, he did everything I could have expected from him, which was to try so hard.”
Clement said he would stick to his exisiting plan to use the Joe Hirsch as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup, and would discuss further with Ryan whether the colt would start in the 1 1/2-mile Turf or the 1 1/4-mile Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, but his comments gave a big hint which way he was leaning.
“Because of what he’s done so far on turf—winning four grade I races in a row—we don’t think he’s got much more to prove on the grass in America. I believe that the mile and a quarter of the Classic is the perfect distance for him, and I’m very excited about the prospect of running him there because I think the artificial surface is very fair for both turf and dirt horses. The first two finishers in last year’s Classic (Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator) were both turf horses, and that makes it fun.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news relating to the Oct. 3 races at Belmont, Fabulous Strike, runner-up to Kodiak Kowboy in the Vosburgh (gr. I), came out of the race in good shape and will run next in either the $100,000 Fall Highweight (gr. III) on Nov. 26 at Aqueduct or the Oct. 24 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) at Laurel Park, trainer Todd Beattie said.
“I’m pretty sure we’re not going to go in the Breeders’ Cup,” Beattie said.
Beattie said the deep dirt track at Belmont, labeled sloppy for the Vosburgh, may have affected Fabulous Strike, as he lost by a half-length in the six-furlong race.
“The track got deep and heavy for those horses to run in 1:10,” he said. “I’m disappointed, but we can’t win them all, can we?”
Beattie said he leans toward running in the Fall Highweight because it gives Fabulous Strike more rest between races, but he will discuss the decision with owner Walter Downey and choose within two weeks.
Kodiak Kowboy will make what will likely be his final start in the De Francis Dash, Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) Nov. 28 at Aqueduct, or even the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. A decision will be made in the next 10 to 12 days.
A day after Pure Clan’s authoritative 2 3/4-length score in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT), the filly’s trainer Robert Holthus was back home in Kentucky and beginning to lean toward a run next month in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).
Heading into the Flower Bowl, Holthus had said, “This is our Breeders’ Cup right here,” but after Pure Clan defeated a talented field of runners from the United States and Europe, he began thinking differently about a return to Santa Anita.
Pure Clan, a 4-year-old chestnut daughter of Pure Prize, finished last in the Breeders’ Cup race last year, beaten 8 1/2 lengths by Forever Together.
“The thing is, if we could win the Breeders’ Cup, she’d probably win the Eclipse Award; that would increase her value,” Holthus, 75, said. “We’re going to do what’s best for her. We plan on running her next year. She’s a homebred (by owner Lewis Lakin). Mr. Lakin and I don’t have too many years left, so we just might (run her).”
Godolphin Racing’s Music Note exited her victory in the Beldame (gr. I) in good order and will depart Oct. 6 for California to await her next start, the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) on Nov. 6.
Music Note, now a five-time grade I winner, finished third behind Zenyatta and stablemate Cocoa Beach in the 2008 Ladies’ Classic.
“We’ll go to California and see how everything plays out,” said Godolphin assistant Henry Spiller, noting that Cocoa Beach, also being pointed to a return engagement in the Ladies’ Classic, will run next week in the Lady’s Secret (gr. I) at Santa Anita. “The way Music Note relaxed yesterday, we believe nine furlongs will be better for her.”