The three-time champion earned a trip back to the winner’s circle for the first time since taking the 2010 Turf Mile. It was a little tougher this time around, as he had to wait for room in upper stretch and then run down Get Stormy, who had taken the lead from the pacesetting Sidney’s Candy. The final margin of victory was a half-length.
With regular rider Ramon Dominguez aboard, the 6-year-old son of Tale of the Cat covered one mile on the firm turf in 1:34.17, a full second faster than he ran a year ago. It was the seventh grade I victory for the bay horse, who upped his earnings to more than $6 million for his sensational career.
Gio Ponti was bred by Kilboy Estate and is out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs. He earned a berth to the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) next month at Churchill Downs, the same race that he finished runner-up in a year ago.
Racing mid-pack in the field of eight for more than three-quarters of a mile, Gio Ponti was content to follow pacesetter Sidney’s Candy through splits of :23.63, :47.08, and 1:10.91. Get Stormy tracked second under Garrett Gomez until they reached the eighth pole, when he finally took over the lead.
Gio Ponti was still near the inside when he reached the top of the stretch, moved past Wise Dan when a path opened up, and then ran down Get Stormy in the late stages to secure the win.
Get Stormy, winner of the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT) in his last start at Keeneland, settled for second, one length in front of Sidney’s Candy. Wise Dan was fourth.
"I can't take credit for the ride being well timed," Dominguez said. "It was all the horse. We had a great trip and I was very pleased with the result."
Trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti began his season with a fifth-place finish in the March 26 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), was third in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) in June, and runner-up in his last two starts—the Man o’ War (gr. IT) and Arlington Million (gr. IT). Overall, he improved to 12-10-1 from 28 lifetime starts.
It was his third win in as many starts at Keeneland.
“It’s great. You know he’s a top-class horse, and I really mean this. He’s a top, top-class horse, firm turf, mile to mile and a quarter," Clement said. "The mile today was a bit quick as you saw for him. He was a bit unlucky this year. I’ve been running him on softer ground. There’s nothing I can do; the program is made that way, and I cannot control the weather.
"Will he go to the (Breeders' Cup) Mile? Probably. Lets enjoy this first and see how he comes out of it; we'll talk to the owner and go from there."
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite, Gio Ponti paid $5.80, $3.20, and $2.40. The exacta (5-8) returned $52.40 and the trifecta (5-8-2) was worth $197.20.