Gio Ponti was the Champion Male Turf Horse in 2009 and also won the Champion Older Male Horse while he was at it in 2009. He won the Arlington Million, the Man O'War, and ran 2nd to the incomparable Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic over the synthetic surface at Santa Anita. With the exception of the two leading ladies of racing in 2009, Gio Ponti might have been the best horse in North America.
So far, 2010 has been a much different story for Gio Ponti. Going into this weekend, he had won only one race all year. He defended his win in the Man O'War, but he had to work like the dickens to get that done. It took him almost forever to run down 50-1 shot Mission Envisioned, who had set a slow pace and had plenty left in reserve to withstand the challenge of the champion, but Gio Ponti was just too classy on the day. Other than that race, Gio Ponti's 2010 performances have been scuttled by bad luck, excellent performances or a combination of both. A prime example occurred in the Arlington Million, where Gio Ponti appeared primed to defend his title there until Debussy shook clear on the rail and rocketed past him to win.
This past weekend, Gio Ponti returned to the Winner's Circle and he did it in emphatic style with a win in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Granted, it was only a field of six, but the result never seemed in doubt this time around once Gio Ponti took the advantage. He won like a champion should have. The victory also appeared to clear up the question regarding his final start of 2010 in the Breeders' Cup. Gio Ponti was apparently either destined for the Mile to take on Goldikova or the Classic for another try with Zenyatta, not to mention Blame, Quality Road, and the others he would have to tame. The Classic would also be his first lifetime start on a pure dirt surface. The win in the Shadwell puts the Mile clearly in the crosshairs for Gio Ponti and that is the correct decision, without doubt. He has a much larger chance to win in the Mile and, as far as Goldikova is concerned, remember that no horse has ever won the same Breeders' Cup race three years in a row. She would be the first to do that if she scores at Churchill Downs. Gio Ponti is in the right spot in the Mile and thankfully, he is headed there off of a victory.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!