Jamaica: New riders for familiar turf rivals
ELMONT, N.Y. -- Thanks in large part to a masterful ride by Garrett Gomez, Gio Ponti got the better of Court Vision and Kent Desormeaux in the Grade 2, $772,500 Virginia Derby two months ago.
Both horses will have new riders for their rematch when Gio Ponti and Court Vision renew acquaintances in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park. Alan Garcia rides Gio Ponti while John Velazquez will be aboard Court Vision.
In the Virginia Derby, Gomez kept Court Vision and Desormeaux pinned to the inside. At the top of the stretch, Gio Ponti was able to get first run on Court Vision, who had to steady at the five-sixteenths pole and then had to alter course in midstretch.
"Garrett rode a good race, he kept us in there until it was too late,'' said Bill Mott, trainer of Court Vision. "Had he been in there we would have done the same thing.''
Gio Ponti is 4 for 6 in his career. Two of those wins have come at Belmont Park - albeit over the Widener turf course - including a two-length score in the Grade 3 Hill Prince here on June 6. Christophe Clement, the trainer of Gio Ponti, said he believes the wide turns and long stretch at Belmont suit Gio Ponti's style. Last out, Gio Ponti fell a half-length short to Madeo in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby over a course with a shorter stretch.
Clement's concern entering the Jamaica is the lighter-than-desired training schedule Gio Ponti has been on due to the spate of wet weather in New York.
"I would have preferred to have had more consistent preparation,'' Clement said.
If there is an upsetter in the field, it may be Wesley. He is 2 for 3 since trainer Mark Hennig put him on turf. Last out, Wesley finish behind fifth, 1 3/4 lengths behind Adriano in the Grade 3 Kent at Delaware Park.
"It was a weird racetrack; it was soft on the inside and as you got out wider on the course it seemed a little bit firmer,'' trainer Mark Hennig. "He kind of made a big move on the outside and he angled down to the inside as he was making this big rush, and he just bogged down in there.''
Wesley ran down a loose-on-the-lead Thou Swell in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga. Thou Swell, who gets blinkers back on Saturday, could play out as the main speed again.
Slambino, Ready's Echo, and Roman Tiger complete the field.