07/10/2009 11:00PM

Gio Ponti wins third Grade 1 in a row

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Under Ramon Dominguez, Gio Ponti grabs his third straight Grade 1 in Saturday's Man o' War at Belmont.

Gio Ponti extended his Grade 1 winning streak to three with a 1 3/4-length win over Musketier on Saturday in the on the turf at Belmont Park.

The run of Grade 1's started with the Frank Kilroe, going one mile at Santa Anita.

Back at Belmont, where he is now 4 for 5, Gio Ponti rallied from last in a 12-horse field to take the Manhattan Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

The Man o' War at 1 3/8 miles was the most decisive victory of the trio for Gio Ponti, a 4-year-old colt who has emerged as the nation's leading grass runner.

"It just confirms that at the moment, I'm afraid, he's got to be the leader of the turf division here," said trainer Christophe Clement. "He's just a very nice horse. That's the great thing about good horses, they overcome a few things."

Racing closer to the pace than usual, Gio Ponti ($6.30) and jockey Ramon Dominguez had a wide but clear trip throughout, while Musketier, under pressure from Midships, set a moderate pace.

Asked for his run on the final turn, Gio Ponti advanced steadily with a five-wide move before unleashing his usual potent kick in the lane.

"I was very happy with the fact that I was close, knowing that they were going very slow and having my horse so relaxed," Dominguez said. "I was not happy about the fact I was very wide and also I was in the clear, which is not really ideal for these turf horses. But he was always relaxed and he proved that he's a runner. I was very impressed and very pleased with the way he finished."

It was another strong effort for Gio Ponti, owned by Castleton Lyons Farm, against a quality field that included five other Grade 1 winners.

Musketier held on gamely for second as Quijano got third followed by Chinchon, Grand Couturier, Marsh Side, Interpatation, Dancing Forever, and Midships.

The time was 2:12.56 on the firm course.

The Man o' War was Dominguez's fourth winner on the card.