Favored Gio Ponti waited for room under a patient Garrett Gomez and blasted through the pack mid-stretch to win the $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes going away in a race taken off the Santa Anita Park turf course and transferred to the Pro-Ride main surface Dec. 26.
Gio Ponti, who had a troubled trip when seventh as the favorite in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT), made his first appearance on anything but turf in his nine-race career. He trailed the field of nine 3-year-olds in the Sir Beaufort down the backstretch but was full of run for Gomez when he hit the homestretch.
As the field fanned out in upper stretch and the speed horses began to fade in the one-mile event, Gio Ponti found room between foes and quickly took command nearing the sixteenth pole, finishing as much the best by 1 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:34.92.
"The synthetic today was a question, and I wanted to give him an opportunity to see how he’d run over it like we know he can run over the grass," Gomez said. "When we turned for home, I was trying to maneuver him around and he had other ideas about where he wanted to go, but we got it done. He’s a very talented horse, and sometimes talented horses can run on anything.”
The stalking Medjool, under Martin Garcia, took second by a head over second choice El Gato Malo and Rafael Bejarano. The race, moved to the main track after heavy rains in Southern California overnight, loses its grade III status pending a final decision by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
The Irish-bred Icemancometh took the lead shortly after the break and posted fractions of :23.03, :46.53, and 1:10.84 as Young Joe and Sky Cape tracked the pacesetter. At the top of the stretch, the picture began to change as several challengers emerged. By mid-stretch, Icemancometh and Young Joe had fallen back, and it was between those two rivals that Gomez found room for Gio Ponti. He won under under vigorous hand urging by Gomez.
Trained by Christopher Clement for owner Shane Ryan's Castleton Lyons, the son of Tale of the Cat was blocked in the Hollywood Derby for much of the stretch run in his last start Nov. 30. Earlier this year, Gio Ponti won both the one-mile Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park and Colonial Downs' Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) in back-to-back starts, both with Gomez aboard. His fifth lifetime victory was worth $60,000 and pushed the bay colt's earnings to $820,800.
Nicholas Bachalard, a 15-year assistant to Clement, said there was no consideration of scratching Gio Ponti after the race transferred surfaces.
"No, never," Bachalard said. "He’s always done well over it (synthetic tracks) in the morning, and Chris has always wanted to run him on it, so it was the right opportunity. He won pretty nice today. We’ll talk to the owners, but he might stay for one race (the Strub Stakes on Feb. 7) before going back to Florida.”
Gio Ponti, who is out of Chipeta Springs, by Alydar, paid $4.60, $3.20, and $2.80. Medjool, looking for his first stakes win for trainer Julio Canani, returned $11.20 and $6.20 and completed a $2 exacta worth $62. The multiple graded stakes winner El Gato Malo, in the second race of a comeback for trainer Craig Dollase, endured a wide trip in the Sir Beaufort but finished up well, paying $3.20 to show.
El Gato Malo, who would have made his first start on grass here, holds the one-mile synthetic track record for one mile at Santa Anita, 1:33.37, which he established while winning the San Rafael Stakes (gr. III) last Jan. 12.
Dakota Phone finished fourth, followed by Icemancometh, Sky Cape, Pistol Pete Afleet, Young Joe, and Ten Meropa. Liberian Freighter, Fifteen Love, Ghetto, and Il Girasole scratched.