BELMONT, N.Y. — Hard-trying Winchester, dismissed at odds of 21-to-1, surged on the far outside to catch stablemate and champion Gio Ponti in deep stretch to win the Grade I Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday by half a length.
The Manhattan was one of five graded stakes on the undercard of the Belmont Stakes.
Gio Ponti and Winchester are trained by Christophe Clement but the two Grade I winners had gone in drastically different directions in recent months. While Gio Ponti won four Grade I races last year to earn the Eclipse Award for champion older male and champion turf male, the 5-year-old Winchester suffered through an eight-race losing skid before winning an allowance race at Keeneland on April 21.
After rating midpack in the 11-horse field, even-money favorite Gio Ponti advanced along the rail to gain a short lead in deep stretch. Winchester, however, came running on the far outside under Cornelio Velasquez to get the edge at the wire, finishing in 1:59.46 for the 11/4-mile race over a firm turf.
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Gio Ponti, who was making his first start since finishing fourth in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, beat out Expansion for place money in a tightly packed finish.
'Champagne' pops in Acorn
Three weeks after guiding Lookin At Lucky to victory in the Preakness Stakes, 25-year-old jockey Martin Garcia continued his hot streak when he pulled the huge upset in the Grade I Acorn Stakes, riding 39-to-1 shot Champagne d'Oro to a front-running win over favorite Amen Hallelujah by half a length.
Owned by Southern Equine Stables, Champagne d'Oro had just one win in nine career starts and was coming off an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30 where she was beaten 21 lengths.
None of that mattered Saturday when the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro won in gate-to-wire fashion, turning back a challenge from Amen Hallelujah on the far outside in the stretch en route to crossing the wire in 1:37.44.
Amen Hallelujah held for second with graded stakes winner Tanda getting third.
Smith rides Proviso to win
Juddmonte Farms' Proviso overtook pacesetter Speak Easy Gal in the midstretch and then held off a late charge from graded stakes winner Phola to win the Grade I Just a Game Handicap by half a length at Belmont.
Proviso was making her first start since defeating males in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 6.
With Mike Smith up, the 5-year-old daughter of Dansili tracked Speak Easy Gal in second down the backstretch before moving up outside to take the lead approaching the furlong marker. Final time for the one-mile test was 1:34.09 over a course rated firm.
D' Funnybone rallies
Paul Pompa's D' Funnybone took advantage of a hot pace up front to overtake Discreetly Mine in the stretch en route to a 31/4-length victory in the Grade II Woody Stephens Stakes.
Sent off as the 6-5 choice in the five-horse field, D' Funnybone rated in third several lengths off the leaders as Eightyfiveinafifty and Discreetly Mine battled neck and neck through an opening quarter in :22.28 and a half in :44.82 in the 7-furlong contest.
While Discreetly Mine fought on in the lane, the son of Mineshaft had no answer when D' Funnybone ranged up to his outside at the head of the stretch and drew off to hit the wire in 1:22.64.
Pletcher's 7-year-old wins
Seven-year-old Bribon delivered a lesson to his younger counterparts in the Grade II True North Handicap, sweeping past his rivals with a four-wide move in the lane to win the 6-furlong sprint by 11/2 lengths over Snapshot.
After taking the Grade I Met Mile last May, Bribon fell into a slight lull, winning just one of his next five outings. The Mark of Esteem gelding came into the True North off a fifth-place finish in the Grade III Westchester on April 30 but had much more fire to his kick on Saturday.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Bribon covered the distance in 1:09.63. Snapshot was second with Checklist fading to third after setting fractions of :22.29 and :45.60.