OZONE PARK, NY – Trainer Christophe Clement has enjoyed a successful year on the NYRA circuit and looks to build on his accomplishments when he saddles City Man in Friday’s $100,000 Gio Ponti for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Gio Ponti, named in honor of Castleton Lyons’ two-time turf champion and winner of seven Grade 1 races, is one of three stakes carded for Aqueduct’s Friday-after-Thanksgiving program, which also features the $100,000 Forever Together for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles over the turf as well as the $100,000 Comely (G3) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles over the main track.
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles and Patty Searles, the son of Mucho Macho Man was a close second last out to Chestertown in the Albany on September 4 at the Spa, where he tracked in fourth position, made a three-wide move at the top of the stretch, but could not catch Chestertown, who found a new gear when confronted and won by 3/4 of a length.
Winless in 3 starts over the grass, City Man has still proven to be competitive on turf, finishing fourth beaten 3/4 of a length in the Transylvania (G3) on July 12 at Keeneland and second in a first-level open company allowance event over the inner turf in August at Saratoga going 1 1/8 miles. In his turf debut in the Central Park on December 6, City Man was fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths behind subsequent graded stakes winner Pixelate.
City Man seeks his first trip to the winner’s circle since winning last year’s Funny Cide by 4 3/4 lengths over next-out winners Cleon Jones and Listentoyourheart.
“It’s a fun race for me since I trained Gio Ponti,” said Clement. “He’s a nice horse. He can run on both turf and dirt. I may wheel him right back in the Alex M. Robb (on the main track) against New York-breds, which is two weeks later.”
Bred in New York by Moonstar Farm, City Man was hammered down to $185,000 at the OBS April 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in 2019 and is out of the City Zip mare City Scamper.
Jockey Junior Alvarado will climb aboard City Man for the first time as he emerges from post 10.
Trainer Kenny McPeek will send out Fighting Seabee, who seeks his first win since taking last September’s With Anticipation (G3) at Saratoga. Owned by Scott Leeds’ Walking L Thoroughbreds, the son of second crop sire Summer Front did not make his sophomore debut until October, when beaten a neck to 10-time winner Artie’s Rumor going 1 1/16 miles over the Keeneland lawn.
Fighting Seabee arrives at the Gio Ponti off a run in the Bryan Station on November 6 at Keeneland, where he finished last of 14 but was only 3 3/4 lengths behind longshot winner Ever Dangerous.
“He actually ran a good race that day but had some traffic trouble,” McPeek said of his last effort. “He had a small issue last winter that kept him out for a while. He had a stress fracture that forced him on the shelf, but he’s come back well since. It’s one of the last chances to run against straight 3-year-olds, but we may try him one last time after this race.”
Jockey Dylan Davis will ride Fighting Seabee from post 5.
Trainer Chad Brown, who saddled inaugural Gio Ponti victor Catapult, sends out Peter Brant’s Basquiat for his stakes debut.
The bay American Pharoah ridgling was second in a first-level optional claiming event last out to next-out Bryan Station winner Ever Dangerous.
Basquiat moved to the turf following two unplaced finishes on the main track and made his grass debut on September 7 at Saratoga, finishing third beaten 1 1/4 lengths behind graded stakes placed and subsequent stakes winner Proven Strategies.
Bred in Kentucky by Brant’s White Birch Farm, Basquiat is out of the Distorted Humor Divalarious, who is a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Taipan.
Jockey Jose Ortiz will have the call from post 4.
Trainer Mike Maker will send out a trio of horses, including Repole Stable’s Bodecream (post 11, Eric Cancel), who was third in both of his graded stakes efforts. The son of Bodemeister completed the trifecta in the Hill Prince (G3) on October 18 over a yielding Widener turf course at Belmont Park last out after a troubled third in the Saranac (G3) on August 29 at Saratoga.
Paradise Farms’ Ajourneytofreedom was fourth at odds of 33/1 in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) on October 3 2 starts back and played such a strong effort into the last-out Bryan Station, where he was fifth. The restricted stakes-placed bay son of Hard Spun seeks his first triumph since winning against optional claiming company on March 7 over the all weather surface at Golden Gate Fields.
Ajourneytofreedom will be piloted by Jorge Vargas Jr. from post 2.
Rounding out Maker’s trio is Me and Mr. C, who takes a jump up in class after running second for a $50,000 tag at Belmont Park. Owned by Paradise Farms and David Staudacher, the son of second-crop stallion Khozan is a 3-time winner of 12 starts and will make his fourth start for Maker.
Me and Mr. C breaks from post 3 under Nik Juarez.
Completing the field are Doc Boy (post 1, Kendrick Carmouche), Sail At Sunrise (post 3, Luis Rodriguez Castro), Price Talk (post 6, Jose Lezcano), Starting Over (post 7, Charlie Marquez), Vanzzy (post 8, Benjamin Hernandez), and Reconvene (post 12, Christopher DeCarlo).
The Gio Ponti is slated as Race 5 on Aqueduct’s 10-race program, which offers a first post of 11:50 a.m. Eastern. America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Aqueduct fall meet with coverage to air on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.