Although Gio Ponti has a predominantly dirt pedigree, is winless in four starts this year, and has shown that a mile and a quarter is his preferred distance, trainer Christophe Clement still believes the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) is the right spot for the son of Tale of the Cat and is planning on a repeat performance this year against the great Goldikova, to whom he was second last year.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Clement, who will saddle Gio Ponti in the Oct.8 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland. “It’s the same plan as last year. The owner (Castleton Lyons) has entertained the idea of running in Classic (gr. I), but in my opinion there is no need to try something new as a 6-year-old. But it is up to the owner to make the decision.
“I’m excited to shorten him up to a mile in the Shadwell. He’s very versatile, he’s very good on firmer turf, and the forecast is good. You always have pace at a mile. His greatest asset is his remarkable turn of foot, and it’s easier to show that on firmer turf.”
After a close fifth in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Gio Ponti was a fast-closing third in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) before running into another European roadblock, this time the Ballydoyle invader Cape Blanco , to whom he finished second in the Man o’War (gr. IT) and Arlington Million (gr. I), run over ‘good’ and yielding’ courses, respectively
“It’s frustrating, but I’m not God, so I can’t change the weather,” Clement said. “Even when conditions are against him he always tries. That’s the remarkable thing about him; he’s so genuine. He’s as solid as he’s ever been and is running the same kind of numbers he always does.
“He’s a very kind horse easy to deal with and ride in the morning. He’s been fresh lately, but doesn’t kick or try to bite. He’s a very good looking, pretty horse, and is amazingly athletic. If you look at him in paddock you know he’s a good horse; he’s such a beautiful mover. And he looks more powerful than ever.”
Although he doesn’t want to look past Saturday, he does think about another showdown with Goldikova.
“I’m very much looking forward to a rematch with Goldikova,” Clement said. “I know she beat us last year, but that’s what racing is all about. She’s still very good, and even if she’s not quite as good this year, we’re talking about a very small difference, and she’ll be very formidable.”