07/02/2009 11:00PM

Man o' War coming up tough again

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Barbara D. Livingston
Manhattan winner Gio Ponti is one of several Grade 1 winners aiming for the Man o' War.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The decision by the New York Racing Association to move the Man o' War from the fall to the summer continues to pay dividends.

Last year, the race attracted three Breeders' Cup winners, including 2007 Classic winner Curlin, who finished second in the Man o' War in between Breeders' Cup Turf winners Red Rocks and Better Talk Now. Curlin would eventually go on to be voted Horse of the Year.

Next Saturday, the $500,000 Man o' War is expected to go to post with seven Grade 1 or Group 1 winners. Gio Ponti, who has won Grade 1 races in California and New York in his last two starts, heads a field that is also expected to include Dancing Forever, Grand Couturier, Marsh Side, and Midships from North America, as well as European Group 1 winners Quijano and Thewayyouare. Chinchon, a listed stakes winner in France, is expected to round out the field.

Gio Ponti, trained by Christophe Clement, is coming off a 1 1/2-length victory in the Manhattan Handicap here on June 6, a race in which he rallied from last in a 12-horse field. Prior to that, Gio Ponti won the Fred Kilroe Handicap, a one-mile race at Santa Anita in which he rallied from 11 lengths back.

Clement said his major target for Gio Ponti this summer is the Arlington Million on Aug. 8 and that the Man o' War "fits nicely" into the 4-year-old colt's schedule. The 1 3/8 miles of the Man o' War will be the farthest Gio Ponti has run in his career, but Clement is hopeful his horse can get the trip.

"I know a mile and three-eighths is [testing] him a little bit," Clement said. "If the ground gets firmer, he should be able to get the mile and three-eighths. Am I good enough to overcome giving weight to everybody? I don't know, but I do know he's a good horse."

Gio Ponti is 3 for 4 at Belmont, with victories in a maiden race and the Hill Prince in addition to the Manhattan. He also finished second to Court Vision in last October's Jamaica.

Arroyo tries another comeback

He's only 32 years old, but this could be Norberto Arroyo Jr.'s last chance at having a career as a jockey. In and out of trouble with the law and racing officials for the last six years, Arroyo returned to the saddle last week for the first time since December.

On Friday, he returned to the winner's circle when he guided Living for This ($8.80) to victory in a maiden claiming race at Belmont.

It was Arroyo's 981st career victory and first since last Nov. 14. Before returning on June 27, Arroyo was away for nearly seven months due to an undisclosed legal problem in New Jersey that prompted officials there to declare him ineligible to compete in racing. He actually had ridden into early December before New York racing officials learned of the suspension and deemed him ineligible to compete due to reciprocity rules.

Arroyo said he is thankful to be back riding and added that he is viewing this as his last chance to succeed.

"I made a lot of mistakes in my life, now it's time to act [right], otherwise it will be too late," he said. "I'm just going to let the actions speak for themselves. I'm hungry now, hungrier than ever, believe me."

Arroyo said he is motivated by his three children, Kiara, 13, Norberto Jr., 3, and Valentina, who is about 6 weeks old.

Arroyo was the leading rider in New York in 2000 with 188 career victories and was runner-up to Tyler Baze in that year's Eclipse Award voting for top apprentice.

Nuno Santos going out on his own

Nuno Santos, who has worked the last six years as exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, is going out on his own as a trainer. Santos will train a few horses for Michael Paulson, who owned the champion mare Azeri. Santos was the exercise rider for Azeri when he worked for trainer Laura de Seroux.

Santos, 39, said he would be based out of Kentucky beginning later this summer.

"I didn't want to gallop for the rest of my life," Santos said. "I think it's the right time."