01/27/2010 12:00AM

Gio Ponti to prep for World Cup at Tampa

Barbara D. Livingston
Gio Ponti's first start of of 2010 will likely be the Feb. 20 Tampa Bay BC.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gio Ponti, who won Eclipse Awards as both the top older male and top male turf horse in 2009, is back in south Florida and will in all likelihood launch his 2010 campaign next month in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup, trainer Christophe Clement said on Wednesday.

Gio Ponti flew to south Florida from the West Coast and arrived at Clement's Payson Park stable on Tuesday evening.

"He arrived last night, trained here this morning and trained well," Clement said late Wednesday morning. "At the moment, we're most probably going to the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup. The distance of the race, quality of the turf course, and timing to the Dubai World Cup are all reasons why we chose this particular race."

The Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup will be run at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 20, five weeks prior to the World Cup. Clement said he would also nominate Gio Ponti to the one-mile Canadian Turf Handicap here on Feb. 20 as a back-up.

Gio Ponti is also among the nominees to the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap here next weekend.

"The Grade 1 at Gulfstream comes up too soon," Clement explained. "The timing of these races was part of the reason why we took Gio Ponti out of California and brought him down here. The one race for him at Santa Anita is seven weeks out from the Dubai World Cup, which is our main goal at the moment. He also missed some training. He jogged seven out of the last 10 days, because of the weather and track conditions at Santa Anita. By bringing him here, I can keep him at Payson Park and see him every day."