After watching a hard-luck campaign that has seen him finish runner-up three times in five starts, the connections of Gio Ponti are changing gears. They are cutting the dual-champion back in distance in hopes that it will give him the small boost he needs to return to his winning ways.
Gio Ponti will contest one mile for the first time in his last 11 starts when he headlines the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) on opening weekend of the Keeneland fall meet. The Turf Mile is one of five graded stakes on an Oct. 9 Keeneland program that also features the grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity and Abu Dhabi First Lady Stakes. The Turf Mile drew a field of six.
Trainer Chirstophe Clement has ruled out the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) for Gio Ponti next month, and has said his 5-year-old will likely go in either the TVG Mile (gr. IT) or the Classic (gr. I). Though he finished runner-up in the Classic a year ago on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride, it is pretty clear that Team Gio is leaning toward the BC Mile, especially with this prep at Keeneland, which is a "Win and You're In" event..
This will be Gio Ponti’s second start over the Keeneland turf course, as he won the Bourbon Stakes back in October 2007 in his second career race. Since then, the son of Tale of the Cat has won nine more times, including four times last season en route to being named champion older horse and champion grass horse.
The bay horse has not run poorly this year—far from it. He missed by a nose in the Tampa Bay Stakes, by a half-length in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT), and by another half-length last out in the Aug. 21 Arlington Million (gr. IT). Two starts ago he notched his only win of the year in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont.
An earner of more than $4.3 million in 21 starts, Gio Ponti has won two of his three career starts at one mile on turf. In March, 2009 he scored the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita for the first of his four consecutive grade I victories.
Castleton Lyons owns Gio Ponti, who will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
One horse that enters the Turf Mile red hot is Sulimar Stable's Get Stormy, a winner of seven of his last eight starts including three of four this season. Get Stormy, a 4-year-old, has a lot going for him. He not only looked terrific in his last two starts at Saratoga—wins in the Aug. 1 Fourstardave and Aug. 27 Bernard Baruch handicaps (both gr. IIT), but he is 4-2-1 from eight starts at the one-mile distance. He also won his lone start on the Keeneland turf, that coming in the Bryan Station (gr. IIIT) a year ago over the yielding going.
Trainer Tom Bush said Get Stormy, who won just once in his first eight starts, has gotten much better with maturity.
“He just was a slow-developing colt, very, very immature physically and particularly mentally,” Bush said. “He just was very immature. But he took baby steps forward and, you know, he's developed into a big, strong older horse. But he's been on the right track for a while and hopefully we can keep him there.
“We're hoping the six weeks between races here and the cool weather is going to suit him. And he flew in to Lexington (Oct. 4) and had a breeze over the turf and I think we're in pretty good shape.”
Javier Castellano will keep the mount on the son of Stormy Atlantic and they will break from the inside.
California shipper Enriched will be making his 10th start of the season for trainer Doug O’Neill. The 5-year-old High Brite gelding is 3-2-3 from his efforts, including the Aug. 28 Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) for his first stakes win. A former claimer, Enriched will be making his first start outside of California. He has won four times at one mile. Garrett Gomez will ride for owners W.C. Racing, Westside Rentals.com, and Neil Haymes.
Other starters are Courageous Cat, winner of the Canadian Turf (Can-IIIT) at Gulfstream Park in February and off since March 27 when finishing ninth in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I); Roger Attfield’s Canadian shipper Society's Chairman, who has won twice at Keeneland; and Acting Zippy, an optional claiming winner last month at Hoosier Park.
$600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:45 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Get Stormy (KY), J Castellano, 126, T M Bush
2. Acting Zippy (FL), E Martin Jr., 126, W D Bennett
3. Courageous Cat (KY), P A Valenzuela, 126, W I Mott
4. Gio Ponti (KY), R A Dominguez, 126, C Clement
5. Society's Chairman (ON), J R Leparoux, 126, R L Attfield
6. Enriched (CA), G K Gomez, 126, D F O'Neill