10/21/2009 11:00PM

Forecast pushes stakes back again

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Barbara D. Livingston
Gio Ponti, who is eyeing the Classic, worked on the turf Thursday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - With the forecast calling for another wet Saturday, the New York Racing Association on Thursday moved two of the seven scheduled stakes for that day's card at Belmont Park to Sunday. The Ticonderoga and Mohawk, both scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf, will be run on Sunday's closing-day card.

"They're calling for anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to an inch and a half of rain," said P.J. Campo, the vice president and director of racing. "Obviously, that could change. Sunday is supposed to be a nice day. It's the last day. I don't want to do it, but I just think it's the best thing."

This is the second straight weekend NYRA has elected to postpone turf stakes. Last weekend, with rain in the forecast, NYRA moved the Grade 3 Athenia from Saturday to Wednesday and the Grade 3 Knickerbocker from Sunday to Thursday.

NYRA will still card 10 races Saturday, all for New York-breds, and all activities scheduled for the day will go on as planned. Two of Saturday's 10 races are carded for the grass, but both have plenty of main-track-only entrants.

Among the extracurricular activities scheduled is a "Wines of New York" tasting in the clubhouse lobby. The wine-tasting is presented by Raphael Winery, located on Long Island's North Fork in Peconic, and Heron Hill Winery, located in the Finger Lakes region. There will be food products for tasting and purchase in the grandstand lobby.

An Autumn Carnival will take place in the backyard with a scarecrow hunt, hayride, pumpkin patch, face painting, and other activities. Children ages 12 and under are admitted free.

Early arrivals to the track can get insight into Saturday's 10-race card from Daily Racing Form handicappers Dave Litfin and Mike Watchmaker, who will conduct a 30-minute seminar beginning at 11:15 a.m. on the third floor of the clubhouse.

Gio Ponti works toward Classic

Gio Ponti, the leading male turf horse in North America, is using his favorite surface to prepare for a start in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.

On Thursday, Gio Ponti worked five furlongs in 1:02.08 over Belmont Park's inner turf course. Clockers timed Gio Ponti's first three furlongs in 36.70 seconds.

"It was a nice work," trainer Christophe Clement said. "He moved well. I wasn't sure: Do you work five-eighths on dirt, or do you work five-eighths on grass? As long as the grass is okay, I think we'll work him on the grass."

Clement said he planned to give Gio Ponti his final work for the Classic on Oct. 30 and plans to ship the horse to Southern California on Nov. 3.

Gio Ponti has won four Grade 1 races on turf this year but also won a Grade 3 stakes race over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface last December. Gio Ponti had his four-race win streak snapped by Interpatation in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, a

1 1/2-mile race run over a bog of a turf course Oct. 3. Clement said Gio Ponti came out of the race in good shape.

"As of today I'm delighted with the well-being of the horse," Clement said.

Diamondrella likely for Turf Sprint

Diamondrella, winner of the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland on Oct. 3, will probably take on the boys in the $1 million Turf Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs, her connections said Thursday.

Diamondrella had been considered for three races - the Filly and Mare Turf, the Mile against boys, and the Turf Sprint. Trainer Angel Penna said he believes the 1 1/4 miles of the Filly and Mare Turf "may be pushing our luck a little bit." The IEAH Stables, which owns Diamondrella, is already pointing Court Vision to the Mile.

"The Mile is a tough race, but we know she can do it," Penna said. "The 6 1/2 is not as tough, but it is still tough because they're not easy in the Breeders' Cup, but we know she can do that."

Diamondrella worked four furlongs in 49.15 seconds Thursday over the Belmont turf.

"She did what she did very comfortably, so we're happy," said Penna, who is also looking at shipping his filly to California on Nov. 3.

Stud Muffin to miss Empire Classic

Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic drew a field of 12. One horse conspicuous by his absence was Stud Muffin, winner of last year's Empire Classic.

Stud Muffin tore off the frog of his right front foot when he finished fourth in the Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga in late August, according to trainer David Duggan. The frog is the bottom part of a horse's foot that acts like a shock absorber.

Duggan said Stud Muffin just resumed galloping and should make it back to the races by late fall or early winter.

"It's disappointing," Duggan said.

* Bribon, the Metropolitan Handicap winner, worked four furlongs in 48.71 seconds Thursday morning over Belmont Park's training track. He is preparing for a start in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 28.