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Jul 15, 2011

Two late rallies produce different results

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - St. John's River and Gio Ponti each put on late rallies in their respective stakes races Saturday. Three-year-old filly St. John's River got up just in time while champion runner Gio Ponti failed in his start.

Both horses went off as heavy favorites, the filly was the even-money favorite in the Delaware Oaks and the six-year-old was 11-10 in the Man o'War Stakes, a race he won each of the last two years.

Ridden by Jose Lezcano, St. John's River, who was second in the Kentucky Oaks in May, made a furious rally down the stretch in the 1 1/16-mile race for three-year-old fillies. She caught pacesetter Strike the Moon right before the wire to register a head victory over the 8-1 longshot in the seven horse field.

Trained by Andrew Leggio Jr. for owner Dede McGehee, St. John's River trailed the field and had to swing five-wide on the final turn to find running room down the stretch. Strike the Moon, ridden by Julian Pimentel, set a slow pace on Delaware Park's main track.

While the favorite was gobbling up ground, Strike the Moon kept on running and made St. John's River extend herself for the win. Local jockey Jeremy Rose was aboard 5-2 second choice All for Thee to finish third followed by Dance Quietly, Snow Fall, Daring Reality and Soundwave.

"They were going so slow the first part of it I was worried because I did not think they would back up that much," said Leggio. " They did not back that much, but she just kept running on them. She was the seven horse and she went seven horses wide at the top of the stretch. I have had two bypasses and I thought I was going to need a third. I thought she was going to win the race, but I was concerned about this short stretch because she does not start getting running until the last eighth of a mile. With a little luck she would have won her last two races. My next stop is the Alabama at Saratoga."

St. John's River added $180,000 to her earnings. She has two wins from six career starts for $500,070. The filly was also second, beaten a half-length, in the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 26.

"She's a really good filly. She won it by herself today," Lezcano said. "I gave her so much to do, but she's a very good filly and she did it."

St. John's River, who covered the 1 1/16-miles in 1:44.39, returned $4.00, $2.80 and $2.10. Strike the Moon paid $7.20 and $3.80, and All for Thee paid $2.40 to show.

Gio Ponti, a three-time Eclipse Award winner, was going after his third straight Man o'War victory. He also trailed the field of six in the 1 3/8-mile grass race.

Cape Blanco and jockey Jamie Spencer came over from Europe to deny the heavy favorite a third consecutive win. Cape Blanco took over the lead from Mission Approved.

Jockey Ramon Dominguez revved Gio Ponti up coming off the final turn and the favorite picked off all but one rival. Cape Blanco won by 2 1/4-lengths over Gio Ponti with Boisterous finishing third followed by Mission Approved, Al Khali and Bearpath.

Cape Blanco covered the Man o'War in 2:14.06 on Belmont Park's turf course listed as good.

"I'm very happy with the way the race panned out," said Spencer. "I joined the leader four-furlongs out and my horse was really ready for it, but as I joined him (my horse) changed leads and lost a front shoe, so that was the only worry I had throughout the whole race. He's a high-class horse and I'm glad he's come back to form."

Cape Blanco, trained by Aidan O'Brien, paid $8.10, $4.10 and $2.80. Gio Ponti returned $2.60 and $2.10, and Boisterous paid $2.90 to show.

The winner was making his first start in the U.S. and added $360,000 to his bankroll. Owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. Fitri Hay, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, Cape Blanco has seven wins in 13 career starts and has now earned $2,979,665.

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