Gio Ponti is gearing up for a run in the Breeders' Cup Classic.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Gio Ponti is gearing up for a run in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
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Classic Report: Some Final Angles

In looking at the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), several thoughts and angles emerged that could have a bearing on the race. While they may turn out to be mere folly, they are at least worth mentioning just to make sure all bases are covered and there is less of a chance of Monday morning quarterbacking.

We’ve already gone over almost every conceivable angle regarding Colonel John, so he’s been taken care of. Here are a few more to ponder.


GOLLY GIO – One thing you always want to see in a 1 1/4-mile race is a horse who can come home. Many people will look at Gio Ponti’s past performances and see nothing but turf races. But snuck in there among his 13 turf starts are two races over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface. In the off-the-turf Sir Beaufort, Gio Ponti  won going away, coming home his final quarter in :23 flat and final half in :46 3/5. In his fifth-place finish in the Strub (gr. II), beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, he closed his last three-eighths in :35 2/5 and final eighth in :11 4/5.


Many will look at him as strictly a turf horse and feel he is out of his element in the Classic. But we all know from last year that the Classic on Pro-Ride is as much of a turf race as it is a dirt race, if not more so. One of the reasons Rip Van Winkle will be bet down is because he is a turf horse, and because of Raven’s Pass’ victory last year. Well, here is an alternative to Rip Van Winkle at a much better price.


What is important to remember is that turf or no turf, Gio Ponti all spring and summer was on the verge of becoming a superstar. He turned into a much better turf horse than he was last year, so who’s to say he’s not a much better Pro-Ride horse than he was back in January and February? A superstar is a superstar, and at the odds he’s likely to be, we could be looking at one of the real overlays in this year’s Breeders’ Cup.


AN EIGHTH OF FAITH – Although Mine That Bird finished a non-threatening sixth in the Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) and most people have totally forgotten about him (only one horse is higher odds in the DRF early line), he made up five lengths in the final furlong, coming home in :11 flat after doing very little from the three-eighths pole to the eighth pole. Some horses need a race to get used to the Pro-Ride or any new surface, and it’s possible it took Mine That Bird slightly less than a race to get used to this surface, and once he finally felt comfortable over it he quickly leveled off and accelerated, running huge in that final furlong. Now that he feels comfortable running over the surface, and with an extra eighth of a mile…hey, you never know. Of course, this is all theoretical, and there is the question of whether he’s good enough to beat this field, but it’s just something to consider if you’re trying to make a case for him. His Beyer figures in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) make him competitive with most of the horses in the race, if, of course, he runs back to those numbers.


EXOTICS ALERT – Back in July, we wrote our first Breeders’ Cup Countdown column on Awesome Gem under the title “Hidden Gem,” stating all the reasons why he could be the next Volponi. This is a much deeper field than Volponi defeated, so it will be a tough task, as evidenced by his rock-bottom 30-1 odds in DRF. But let’s put winning off to the side for now. We feel he’s still worth a play going 1 1/4 miles, especially if he gets a good trip. But from an exotics standpoint, consider the fact that, excluding his race in Hong Kong, he hasn’t been beaten more than 4 3/4 lengths in his last 12 starts. In his 10 defeats (he won twice during that time), the average margin of lengths he was beaten is 2 3/4 lengths. Those races consisted of four grade I stakes, one grade II, and four grade IIIs. During that period (this is after his third-place finish in the 2007 BC Classic behind Curlin and Hard Spun), he won or placed in graded stakes on dirt, grass, Cushion Track, Polytrack, and Tapeta. He has yet to run on Pro-Ride. He knocked a lot of people out of the trifecta in 2007 at 28-1 against one of the best Classic fields in history. Who’s to say he can’t do it again.


In other Classic News:


Richard's Kid  looked terrific working a half-mile in :47 1/5 Monday, closing his final eighth in:11 1/5. A smallish, blocky horse, it’s hard to believe looking at him that he thrives on distance racing. He has a fluid stride and just glides over the track, and he was really rolling when he blew by his workmate and galloped out strong. Coming back, he was bouncing along as if the work had taken nothing out of him.


Twice Over made a good appearance as he tested the track for the first time, cantering once around.

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