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Only the outstanding pair Zenyatta and Goldikova have stood in the way of wins at the past two Breeders' Cups for Gio Ponti.
He took second behind Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) in 2009 and filled the same place behind Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) last year. This North American champion returns to Meydan for a second attempt at winning the Dubai World Cup (G1). He finished fourth twelve months ago, when the pace scenario worked against him. Gio Ponti is better than that showing and he must have a big chance on March 26.
The Christophe Clement trained star will be coming off a long break this time, not having raced since the Breeders' Cup in November. Horses with similar preparations have ended up on the podium after many a top race around the world, so we know it can be done. Also, don't forget that Gio Ponti takes one of the best Globeform ratings into the battle. He is a very solid top-class performer.
Gio Ponti stayed on late to take fourth to Gloria de Campeao last year, when he – like Twice Over – found the early pace a bit too slow for his liking. Being a Grade 1 winning miler, Gio Ponti has more speed than Twice Over, and he handled the disadvantage better and was beaten only 1 ½ lengths by the winner. Gio Ponti and Twice Over also met in 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, where the mighty Zenyatta won the big race. Gio Ponti grabbed second, with Twice Over 1 ¼ lengths behind him in third. Gio Ponti had taken in a prep race at home then – having been nosed out by Karelian in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup Turf five weeks earlier. The plan was to race him once in Florida ahead of his trip to Dubai also this year, but he missed the race as “he was not quite ready” according to his trainer. He won the Manhattan Handicap (G1) after a three-month break in 2009 but more recently Gio Ponti has tended to need his run after a break. This time, however, he will have been trained to peak on reappearance – and there is no reason to doubt that he can do so. A more important key to Gio Ponti's chances is the pace of the race. He is clearly at his best in strongly-run contests, as he likes to be held up at the back early, in order to deliver a strong finish when the prominent runners begin to tire.
He raced six times in the US last year, with two wins at G1 level; in the Man o'War Stakes over 11 furlongs (2200 metres) at Belmont Park and the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Gio Ponti beat Mission Approved by a neck at Belmont and he denied Society's Chairman by a length at Keeneland. In between these wins he ran second to Debussy in the Arlington Million (G1) in Chicago – when he was given too much too do in a slowly run race. Gio Ponti ran on well but Debussy held a massive advantage, as he was able to quicken after having been part of a leisurly pace. He beat Gio Ponti by half a length, with Debussy's stable companion Tazeez two lengths further back in third. Tazeez is being aimed at the Duty Free on World Cup night.
Gio Ponti's end of season target was the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs, where he put up yet another high-class performance. Only the fantastic French mare Goldikova, winning the race for the third time, passed the post in front of him. She was much the best, winning by 1 ¾ lengths, but Gio Ponti had six previous G1 winners behind him that day and he lost nothing in defeat. Going for the World Cup after a near five-month break from racing may not be ideal, but Gio Ponti certainly has both the class and experience it takes to make his presence felt once more.
Having earned $5 million to date, Gio Ponti failed to find a buyer when sent to the sales both as a yearling and two-year-old. His sire, Tale of the Cat, won the King's Bishop Stakes (G1) over 7 furlongs at three and was placed in Grade Ones at up to 9 furlongs. He is also well known as the sire of Lion Heart, winner of the Hollywood Futurity (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and Tale of Ekati, who landed the Wood Memorial (G1) and the Cigar Mile (G1) and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Gio Ponti is out of the Alydar daughter Chipeta Springs. She won over a mile plus and was stakes placed in the US. Chipeta Springs has produced 7 winners from 10 runners, and is also dam of two other multiple stakes winners in Bon Jovi and Fisher Pond.
Last update: 2011-03-16 05:30:51 (First published: 2011-03-13 08:01:23 )
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