Gio Ponti, who captured last summer’s Arlington Million (gr. IT) as the favorite, looms as an even stronger 7-5 choice on the morning line when facing nine rivals in the 28th running of the Aug. 21 race.
The centerpiece race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season, the Million will be run at 1 1/4 miles over Arlington’s turf course. Along with the $750,000 Beverly D. for fillies and mares and the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds, it is one of three grade I races making up the racetrack’s International Festival of Racing program. The Million winner will receive an automatic to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
HRTV will offer complete in-depth analysis and commentary of the Million beginning Friday, Aug. 20, while conducting interviews with key owners, trainers, and jockeys. Post time on Saturday is set for 5:14 p.m. CDT.
If Gio Ponti prevails, he would become the first horse to win the Million in back-to-back seasons and only the second horse to win the event twice (John Henry, 1981 and 1984, is the other). Christophe Clement trains the 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat for Castleton Lyons. He won by 1 1/4 lengths a year ago.
Gio Ponti is coming off a neck tally in Belmont Park’s Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) on July 10. Before that, he was runner-up in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) June 5 on Belmont Stakes Day and fourth in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March.
Last season, he scored four consecutive grade I turf wins en route to being named champion grass horse and champion older male.
Gio Ponti arrived at Arlington after an uneventful flight from New York on Aug. 17.
“We had a very good trip,” said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to Clement. “We left Albany about 8 this morning and there were no problems at all. We’ll see how he eats today. He’ll have an easy day tomorrow and gallop Friday.”
Gio Ponti completed his major preparation for the race on Aug. 12 when he worked five furlongs on the training track at Saratoga in :59.38.
Lorieul is no stranger to Arlington Park: in addition to accompanying Gio Ponti for last year’s successful run in the Million, the French-born horseman with Clement trainees Royal Highness and Mauralakana, who captured the Beverly D. in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
“I’ve come to Arlington three times and won the Beverly D. twice and the Million last year,” he said. “This race track and these races fit the type of horses we have.”
Regular rider Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Gio Ponti, an earner of more than $4 million from 20 starts. They will break from post 6.
Among his main challenger’s is Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well, runner-up in last year’s Million and pegged at 5-1 on the morning line this time. Owned and trained by Sheppard, Just as Well finished second in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) on July 17 as the designed local prep for the Million, and won the 2009 renewal of that prep.
Also coming out of the Arlington Handicap is the winner, Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, who defeated Just as Well by a half-length, as well as Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed and Robert Evans’ Marsh Side, third and fourth, respectively.
Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, winner of Churchill Downs’ Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) over soft going on Kentucky Derby Day on May 1, is 8-1 in the morning line. He didn’t care for the hard turf course when a disinterested sixth in the Arlington Handicap five weeks ago. Irish-born jockey James Graham is slated for the saddle.
Shadwell Stable’s Tazeez, one of three European invaders, must be respected for his solid third-place run in the Prince of Wales’s (Eng-I) Stakes June 16 during the prestigious Royal Ascot meet. British-born conditioner John Gosden trains and British jockey Richard J. Hills is due to ride.
William Bellew’s Summit Surge, the second of three European invaders for the Million, won the Sky Bet York Stakes (Eng-II) at Great Britain’s York Racecourse in his last start on July 24 and is pegged at 10-1 in the morning line. Italian-born but Newmarket-based Luca Cumani trains and Irish-born jockey Kieren Fallon is slated for the tack.
Darley Stud Management’s Debussy, who finished fourth, beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Summit Surge in the Sky Bet York Stakes, is the third European invader. Norwegian-born William Buick is the jockey named to ride Gosden’s second Million contestant.
The longest shot in the morning line is Jean and Ted Barlas and Michael Porcaro’s Quite a Handful at 30-1. The Andy Hansen trainee journeyed to Indiana Downs to win his last start July 12 and will have Tanner Riggs aboard once again.
The Horse Racing Radio Network will provide exclusive radio coverage of the grade I Secretariat Stakes, Beverly D., and Arlington Million. HRRN’s two-hour broadcast from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET will include feature analysis of all three grade 1 stakes, along with pre and post race interviews, and announcer John Dooley’s live call of each race. Mike Penna will anchor the HRRN coverage, along with analysts Jude Feld, Rolly Hoyt, and Billy White. Adam Frenier will produce.
$1,000,000 Arlington Million (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:14 p.m. CDT) 3YO and Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Marsh Side (KY), C S Nakatani, 126, N D Drysdale
2. Debussy (IRE), W T Buick, 126, J H Gosden
3. General Quarters (KY), J Graham, 126, T R McCarthy
4. Just as Well (KY), J R Leparoux, 126, J E Sheppard
5. Quite a Handful (KY), T Riggs, 126, A M Hansen
6. Gio Ponti (KY), R A Dominguez, 126, C Clement
7. Rahystrada (KY), I Karlsson, 126, B G Hughes
8. Tajaaweed (KY), M C Baze, 126, D C Peitz
9. Tazeez (KY), R J Hills, 126, J H Gosden
10. Summit Surge (IRE), K Fallon, 126, L M Cumani