Gio Ponti cruises to victory in the Hill Prince under Garrett Gomez.

Gio Ponti cruises to victory in the Hill Prince under Garrett Gomez.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Layoff No Problem For Gio Ponti

The Tale of the Cat colt won the June 6 Hill Prince at Belmont Park.

Gio Ponti, off for more than seven months and making his 3-year-old debut, rallied from last to take the $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) by two lengths under Garrett Gomez June 6 on the Belmont turf.

Owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement, the lightly-raced Gio Pinti won in his graded stakes debut despite starting for just the fourth time in his career. He had not raced since finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Oct. 26 at Monmouth Park. Despite this, the son of Tale of the Cat was sent off as the co-favorite in a field of seven turfers going one mile.

Gio Ponti was last after a half-mile and in no particular hurry while Prussian shot up to take the lead under Kent Desormeaux. Prussian had it fairly easy on the front end, setting fractions of :23.71, :47.24 and 1:11.14. Writingonthewall was up close early before falling back, while Moral Compass pressed the pace and was only a length back of Prussian when they hit the eighth-pole. Co-favorite Hatta Fort was also up close and in contention with a furlong to go.

Gio Ponti began his move around the far turn, but was still next to last after six furlongs. However, circling five-wide, he steadily advanced on the leaders and was within striking distance as they came out of the turn. He picked off Moral Compass and Hatta Fort in mid-stretch and was inside the sixteenth-pole when he stormed past Prussian.

Gio Ponti stopped the clock in 1:35.03. Prussian held well for second, a length in front of Moral Compass.

"The only thing I was concerned about was swinging wide," Gomez said. "I didn't want to leave him too much to do coming off a long layoff. He's a very athletic individual. The further the better for him. He's a nice horse."

The winner paid $6.50, $4 and $2.90. The exacta (8-7) was worth $26.80, while the trifecta (8-7-3) returned $96.50.

Gio Ponti is out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs, He was bred in Kentucky by Kilboy Estate, Inc. Prior to the Breeders’ Cup he won his only two starts – a maiden score on the Belmont turf and the Oct.7 Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes on the Keeneland grass.

Hatta Fort finished fourth, followed by Dynhocracy, Writingonthewall and Spark Candle. Titan of Industry was scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)