Two-time reigning champion Gio Ponti will take another shot at winning his second Arlington Million (gr. IT) when he faces nine rivals in the prestigious race Aug. 13 at Arlington Park.
Winner of the 2009 Arlington Million and runner-up the last year, Gio Ponti drew post 5 and was listed as the 2-1 second choice. Cape Blanco, winner of the July 9 Man o’ War (gr. IT), was pegged as the 9-5 choice at the post position draw Tuesday, Aug. 9.
The 1 1/4-mile grass event is part of the Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” series, giving the winner an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 5. Post time is set for 5:15 p.m. CDT.
Owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti will try to join John Henry as the only two-time winner of the Million. John Henry won the inaugural running in 1981 and then again in 1984. Gio Ponti was beaten a half-length by Debussy last year.
Gio Ponti is coming off a second-place finish to Cape Blanco in the Man o' War last month at Belmont Park. His two previous starts in 2011 were a fifth in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and a third in Belmont's Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT). His last win came in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland last fall.
The 6-year-old son of Tale of the Cat has earned nearly $5.5 million from 26 career starts with 11 wins. Ramon Dominguez will keep the mount.
Irish-bred Cape Blanco, owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor, won the Man o’ War in his United States debut when defeating Gio Ponti by 2 1/4 lengths. He is a 4-year-son of Galileo who lists last year’s group I Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes among his victories. Aidan O’Brien trains Cape Blanco, who has seven wins from 13 starts and earnings of nearly $3 million.
Cape Blanco will arrive in Chicago from his Irish headquarters on Aug. 10. He will be ridden by Jamie Spencer from post 7.
In spite of the impressive credentials of Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti, the Arlington Million is not a two-horse race.
Installed at 6-1 is Naipaul and Terikchand Chatterpaul’s Mission Approved, who defeated Gio Ponti in the Manhattan Handicap. Trained by Naipaul Chatterpaul, the 7-year-old son of With Approval was second by a neck to Gio Ponti in the 2010 Man o’ War and was fourth behind Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti in this year’s edition. Jose Espinoza will ride the front-running Mission Approved.
Mark Hawtin’s Irish-bred European invader Wigmore Hall is already familiar to Arlington after finishing second in last year’s Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Paddy O’Prado. The son of two- time Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner High Chaparral was more recently third in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) on Dubai World Cup Day March 26 and has European jockey Hayley Turner slated to ride. She will become the third female jockey to ride in the Arlington Million.
French-bred Zack Hall is the third European invader. He was fourth at last asking in France’s group I Grand Prix de St. Cloud June 26 and will be making his first start outside his native land. French jockey Christophe Soumillon is named to ride.
Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, winner of the 2010 Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) and fourth in last summer’s Arlington Million, is 12-1 in this year’s Million morning line. He is trained by Scooter Hughes and will be ridden Saturday by Sheldon Russell.
Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, winner of this season’s Arlington Handicap July 9 and sixth in the 2010 Arlington Million, is back. Danny Peitz is the trainer and Irish-born James Graham will be the jockey.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean's Kitten, third in this year’s Arlington Handicap as the final local prep for the Million, was listed as a 30-1 longshot. The son of 2005 Secretariat winner Kitten's Joy, who was also Ramsey-owned, is conditioned by Mike Maker and has French-born jockey Julien Leparoux astride.
$1,000,000 Arlington Million (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:15 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer 1. Rahystrada, S Russell, B Hughes
2. Tajaaweed, J Graham, D Peitz
3. Dean's Kitten, J Leparoux, M Maker
4. Zack Hall, C Soumillon, M Delzangles
5. Gio Ponti, R Dominguez, C Clement
6. Proceed Bee, C Emigh, S Becker
7. Cape Blanco, J Spencer, A O'Brien
8. Mission Approved, J Espinoza, N Chatterpaul
9. Wigmore Hall, H Turner, M Bell
10. General Perfect, G Gomez, G Thompson