11/24/2016 3:32PM

Catapult refuses to yield to Strike Midnight in Gio Ponti


OZONE PARK, N.Y - After relinquishing the lead in the stretch of the English Channel Stakes at Belmont Park in his last start, Catapult gave no quarter in the stretch of Thursday’s $125,000 Gio Ponti Stakes at Aqueduct, turning back a challenge from Strike Midnight to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

The win was the third in six races but first from three tries in a stakes for Catapult, a 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy owned by Woodford Racing and trained by Chad Brown.

Catapult finished third in the English Channel, beaten a half-length. That day, he made the lead just outside the quarter pole, but couldn’t polish the race off in the stretch, giving way to Dragon Bay and then Strike Midnight, who got second by a head over Catapult.

Under Javier Castellano on Thursday, Catapult stalked from second the pedestrian pace established by Pirellone, and Castellano waited as long as possible to let Catapult hit the front. When he did, Catapult had something left with which to finish; he was seemingly emboldened by the challenge of Strike Midnight, who, after racing fifth early, launched a three-wide bid under Irad Ortiz Jr. leaving the three-eighths pole.

Castellano said “at the top of the stretch when [Catapult] saw the other horse, he took off again. That’s the type of horse he is, he always likes to be focused.”

Catapult covered the 1 1/16 miles over a good turf course in 1:44.75, and returned $5.10 as the 3-2 favorite.

Strike Midnight finished second by one length over Hunter O’Riley, who was followed, in order, by Toughest ‘Ombre, Italian Charm and Pirellone.

Yorkiepoo Princess upsets Eloquent Riddle
Brown and Castellano were going for three straight victories on Thursday’s card with Eloquent Riddle in the $100,000 Furlough Stakes for juvenile fillies. They had to settle for second, however, as Yorkiepoo Princess went gate to wire under Irad Ortiz Jr. to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

Eloquent Riddle, pounded to 1-5 after the scratch of morning-line second choice Come Dancing, finished second, 17 1/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher Alice B Winkle. Star Studded and Whistle Stop completed the order of finish.

Ortiz and trainer Eddie Barker thought Yorkiepoo Princess would be stalking Star Studded, but when that filly didn’t go to the lead, Ortiz seized control. Yorkiepoo Princess set fractions of 23.53 for the quarter, and 46.90 for the half while opening up a 4 1/2-length lead.

“He told me to sit second, but she broke so good I made the decision to go for the lead,” Ortiz said. “At the three-eighths pole she started getting out a little bit. I had some horse, I looked to my inside and I said let me open up on that horse. I thought that was the only chance I had to beat Chad.”

Yorkiepoo Princess drifted out several paths in the stretch, but Eloquent Riddle never got close to enough to take advantage.

Barker said he thought Star Studded “would be clear on the lead. But she didn’t break and he’s talented enough to call an audible. Gee, what a nice horse. … Not bad for an $8,000 purchase.”

Yorkiepoo Princess, a daughter of Kantharos purchased for $8,000 at the OBS April sale by owner Danny Chen, covered the six furlongs in 1:11.62 and returned $9.20 as the second choice.

Barker said he would likely keep Yorkiepoo Princess sprinting during Aqueduct’s inner track season that begins on Dec. 7.