Late bloomer Gucci Factor wins Grade 3 Poker in style

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Sarah Mace

Following a protracted (and certainly, for the connections, anxious) wait for the results of a five-horse photo-finish from the placing judges, Castleton Lyons’ New York-bred Gucci Factor emerged as the winner of the Grade 3, $300,000 Poker Stakes featured at Belmont Sunday.

Taking his third trip to the winner’s circle in a row, the late-blooming 6-year-old son of Gio Ponti fully ratified his first stakes victory 20 days ago in the Kingston Stakes for New York-breds, and considerably upped the ante by winning his graded stakes debut.

Partnered with Joel Rosario to go a mile over the firm Widener turf, Gucci Factor had good support at the betting windows as the 5-1 third choice in a deep field. Favorite Clyde’s Image (9-5) and second choice Dr. Edgar (3-1) book-ended the group of eight. Gucci Factor was drawn in post four, but for the late runner, post position would not be an issue.

Gucci Factor and Rosario watched the early stages of the race unfold from second-to-last position, cruising comfortably in the clear just off the rail about eight lengths off the pace. Up front Dr. Edgar took the group through splits of 23.71 and 46.68, a length ahead of Krampus and Clyde’s Image.

Around the far turn, Gucci Factor came out a path and began his bid in earnest, while up front Dr. Edgar issued a direct challenge to Clyde’s Image.

Fanning out widest of all at the quarter pole as the six furlongs ticked by in 1:10.44, Gucci Factor made up ground in upper stretch. At the furlong marker he still had five to pass, chief among them Clyde’s Image, who was edging ahead.

Driving to the wire widest of five and ultimately moving best of the closers, Gucci Factor and got the bob in a speedy final time of 1:32.54.

The final order of finish for the quintet lined up across the track was: Gucci Factor, Hembree, Krampus, Dr. Edgar and Clyde’s Image, with official margins of nose, nose, nose and nose. In the final strides Clyde’s Image lost position after taking a bad step. Placed under a protective hold, the favorite was pulled up after the wire and vanned off. The preliminarily diagnosis as reported from trainer Tom Bush’s barn was a tendon injury. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Quipping that Gucci Factor might have blossomed earlier “with a better trainer,” Christophe Clement said, “He’s a nice horse that has never stopped improving. Of the five horses at the end, they all finished about a neck apart. It was a pretty good race. We’re very grateful [to] the owners. Castleton Lyons were patient with this horse.”

Continued Clement, “You could see he was coming with run toward the wire and watching Joel [Rosario] not having to use his whip. You know he thought he was going to get there. A very tight race and they all ran well.”

Rosario reported, “[Gucci Factor] was trying really hard and running at the end, I’m just glad we got close at the wire. He showed a lot of heart. He’s there for you all the time. He’s a real honest horse. He just loves to run. I thought he got the jump in the last minute, but I wasn’t sure.”

Gucci Factor has quietly compiled an impressive resume over four campaigns. A winner of seven of his 14 career starts, he worked steadily thorough his New York-bred and open conditions, after breaking his maiden in his fourth attempt at Belmont in June 2017. Although he has five dirt starts under his belt, the gelding has really come into his own as a full-time turf runner, winning five of six races on the green since last June. In his first foray into black type territory, he finished third in last year’s Ashley T. Cole for state-breds at Belmont Park. The Poker victory brings Gucci Factor’s earnings to $443,450.

Clement concluded, “He loves Belmont Park and he never stopped getting better. It’s nice when the patience pays off. He’s also a son of Gio Ponti, which is always fun.” Clement trained Gio Ponti to back-to-back Eclipse turf championships in 2009 and 2010 for Castleton Lyons, before the turf superstar was retired to stud duty with $6.1-million in earnings.

Bred by Highclere and foaled at Waldorf Farm in N. Chatham, Gucci Factor is out of Shoo In, an unraced Highclere-bred daughter of Dynaformer who has produced five winners from five foals to start. In addition to budding star Gucci Factor, her Ichiban Warrior (First Samurai) is stakes placed. Her most recent reported foal was in 2015



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