02/17/2010 12:00AM

Gio Ponti set to go in Tampa


Gio Ponti, a two-time Eclipse Award winner in 2009, will make his much anticipated 2010 debut, as expected, in Saturday's $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup at Tampa Bay Downs. Trainer Christophe Clement is planning on using the race as a prep for the Dubai World Cup on March 27.

The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup drew a field of nine, although two members of the prospective starting lineup, Mambo Meister and Pickapocket, were also entered the same afternoon in Gulfstream Park's one-mile Canadian Turf. The Canadian Turf also offers a purse of $150,000 and is a Grade 3 race. The Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup is ungraded.

Gio Ponti was voted champion older horse and male turf horse after winning four Grade 1 races on grass as well as finish second behind Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Gio Ponti, a son of Tale of the Cat owned by Castleton Lyons, earned more than $2.3 million in 2009.

Trainer Christophe Clement had originally left Gio Ponti on the West Coast following his big effort in the Breeders' Cup but opted to bring him back east after losing numerous days of training in January because of rain and the unsettled track conditions at Santa Anita. Gio Ponti has had two works since returning to Clement's winter headquarters at Payson Park, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:02 on Feb. 4.

Despite being a two-time Eclipse champion, Gio Ponti will actually receive weight from two members of the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup lineup under the allowance conditions of the race. Rahystrada, winner of the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in his 2009 finale, will tote high weight of 122 pounds, while Gio Ponti starts under 116 pounds with regular rider Ramon Dominguez aboard.

The remainder of the field includes Almoradi, an Irish-bred making his first start in the United States for trainer Patrick Biancone, Public Speaker, Dinner in Odem, Karelian, and Quiet Emarati.