ELMONT, N.Y. -- Gio Ponti worked on the grass Sunday at Belmont Park, but trainer Christophe Clement said that no final decision had been on whether North America's reigning turf champion will start in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile on grass or the $5 million Classic, a 1 1/4 mile dirt race, both at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
In his first work since his impressive victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 9, Gio Ponti went five furlongs in 1:03.58 in company with the multiple Grade 1 winner Winchester, a Breeders' Cup Turf starter who went the same distance in 1:03.94.
Gio Ponti, under exercise rider Jerry Fogarty, began the work about two lengths behind Winchester, who under Christophe Lorieul, went in splits of 12.62 seconds and 27.10 for the first quarter. Turf workouts were conducted around a triple set of orange traffic cones, known as dogs, which forces the horses farther outside than they would be under normal race conditions.
Approaching the quarter pole, Gio Ponti was right off Winchester's heels. He was adeptly moved to the outside in upper stretch by Fogarty and finished very willingly without Fogarty asking for anything. Gio Ponti's final quarter was run in 23.06 seconds.
"He worked great, I'm delighted with him, he came back in good order," Clement said of Gio Ponti. "Both horses looked great."
Clement said that he spoke with Gio Ponti's owner Shane Ryan following the work, but Ryan told him he did not want to make a final decision yet on which race to run in. Last week, Ryan announced that the horse would be pre-entered for both the Mile on turf and the Classic, a race Gio Ponti finished second in last year when it was run over a synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup are due Monday.
Regardless of which race Gio Ponti runs in, Clement said he is not sure whether he will give the horse another workout. Clement said he will base that decision on how he trains this week. Gio Ponti has had success this year with his works spaced 9 to 13 days out from his races "and it's difficult not to go with what's been working," Clement said.
Gio Ponti and Winchester are not scheduled to leave for Kentucky until Nov. 2.