08/30/2008 11:00PM

Madeo upsets Gio Ponti in Del Mar Derby

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Gio Ponti came west with the fancy reputation, but it was Madeo who got the best trip, and the money, on Sunday in the Grade 2, $350,000 Del Mar Derby.

Madeo ($23.60), given a rail-hugging ride by Mike Smith, saved enough ground on both turns to subsequently outfinish heavily favored Gio Ponti by a half-length, with pacesetter Tangled Tango another three-quarters of a length back in third.

“Mike stuck to the rail like a magnet,” said John Shirreffs, who trains Madeo for the colt’s owners and breeders, Jerry and Ann Moss. He is named for a popular Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.

Madeo completed 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.68.

Madeo, by Mizzen Mast, has now won three times in seven starts, all since March 1. He was fourth in the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 9 in his lone previous turf try.

“Last time he was caught extremely wide the first part of the race,” Smith said. “I thought he was good enough to win that race.”

Shirreffs said Madeo’s development was hampered early on by his immaturity and nervousness.

“He was one of those colts who did everything wrong,” Shirreffs said.

Gio Ponti, sent off at 4-5, had won the Virginia Derby in his previous start. Despite breaking from the outside post in the field of 10, he was able to secure a good position around the first turn and into the backstretch under jockey Garrett Gomez. But Gio Ponti never got over before the final turn, and ended up floated five paths wide turning into the stretch.

He finished resolutely, but Madeo, who had grabbed the lead inside the furlong pole, had enough left to hold on and earn his first stakes win.

“I’m a little disappointed in him,” Gomez said of Gio Ponti. “A bunch of little things went wrong during the race and he should have handled them. But he didn’t. I used him to get some position, then we lost position. He’s a better colt than this.”

Torrey Pines: Dawn After Dawn wires

Earlier in the day, Dawn Before Dawn ($17.80) led from start to finish going one mile on Polytrack to capture the $108,800 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. With Gomez up, Dawn Before Dawn set fractions of 22.75 seconds, 46.92, and 1:11.67 en route to a final time of 1:37.10.

She won by one length over Miss Singhsix, with Distant Victory third and favored Golden Doc A fourth in the field of seven. John Sadler trains Dawn Before Dawn for owners Ike and Dawn Thrash.