Thanks to his fourth consecutive grade I turf victory—the Aug. 8 Arlington Million—the summer had not even ended when Gio Ponti seemingly locked up the Eclipse Award as North America’s champion male turf horse.
As a 3-year-old, Gio Ponti showed signs of greatness by winning three graded stakes events, but the bay son of Tale of the Cat took his game to another level last year, beginning with a victory in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita for his first grade I score of his career. Conditioned by Christophe Clement for Castleton Lyons, Gio Ponti shipped east for his summer campaign and notched back-to-back wins in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) and the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT)—both at Belmont—to establish himself as the top turf horse in the United States.
A 11⁄4-length triumph in the Arlington Million not only solidified Gio Ponti’s elite status but was enough to put him in the conversation for Horse of the Year honors. Gio Ponti finished second in his final two starts of 2009—the Oct. 3 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont and the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride.
Bred in Kentucky by Shane Ryan’s Kilboy Estate (Ryan serves as president of Castleton Lyons), Gio Ponti is out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs. His record of 4-2-0 from seven starts in 2009 earned him $2,333,000.
First-place vote totals: Gio Ponti, 206; Conduit, 22; Presious Passion, 3; Court Vision, 1.