Making his first 2011 foray to the Meydan all-weather track on March 19 in preparation for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), three-time champion Gio Ponti bounced with contained energy as he jogged once around the about 1 1/8-mile oval.
“He shipped very well, better than he did last year,” reported Christophe Lorieul, who was in the irons and is an assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “Last year, he lost some weight and was not back to his feed as quickly as he has been this year. The horse is doing great. But it’s going to be a big challenge because there was no prep race.”
Scheduled for a gallop on March 20 and “a little piece of work” later in the week, Gio Ponti was a good fourth last year, rallying off a slow pace to finish 1 ¼ lengths behind front-running winner Gloria de Campeao. Although Clement was planning to start Gio Ponti in a race in the United States prior to shipping the horse to Dubai, the 6-year-old was not ready for competition, a fact that Clement has conceded is not ideal.
Yet perhaps Gio Ponti’s energy and focus this year will serve him better than did last year’s prep race, a runner-up effort by a nose to winner Karelian in the Tampa Bay Stakes.
“It probably helps him that he has been here before,” Lorieul said of Gio Ponti, a son of Tale of the Cat . “Last year, I had a very difficult time getting him to stand (before exercising), but today he was perfect.”
A very consistent campaigner who has captured six Grade 1 races, all on turf, Gio Ponti has won 11 of 23 starts and has finished second eight times. One of the richest American-based horses in training, Gio Ponti has bankrolled $5,037,800 to date for owner Castleton Lyons.