The Greatness of 2009 Arlington Million Champion Gio Ponti

Today, August 17, 2013, will be the 31st running of the Arlington Million, which will be run from the famous Arlington Park. The track is located in N.Arlington, Illinois, which is just outside of Chicago.

The “Million,” as most racing people call it, first ran as the biggest million dollar turf race in August of 1981. It was placed in the Summer, so the European horses could compete, before their year-end championships.

Of course, three years later, the year-end championships are now the Breeder’s Cup Champions.

The winner of the Inaugural Arlington Million was the late, great John Henry, who gobbled up ground on a track he hated (soggy), and defeated The Bart by a tiny nose.

Before I continue, due to the fact that I have been watching many of the races today, and such, I was able to watch today’s running of the Million.

The race was won by Real Solution. “Solution” was awarded the race as The Apache kept bumping “Solution” all the way down the stretch, and was disqualified.

Ken Ramsey owns Real Solution. Ramsey was on a tear today. His Big Blue Kitten won the Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga this afternoon also.

A DQ in the Arlington Million is nothing new. Kicking Kris was awarded the race when Powerscourt was misbehaving in the stretch in the 2004 version.

Anyway, back to the blog at hand.

Many awesome horses have won this prestigious race, such as Awad, Tight Spot, Manila, and the mare Estrapade, to name a few.

Tight Spot, the 1991 winner, won Eclipse Awards at end of the year. Estrapade is known as the only female to win the Arlington Million, and won Best Female Turf Horse Eclipse Award in 1986.

Of course, there were the one hit wonders that won the Million due to getting good rides, and didn’t amount to much after. Debussy,who’ll be discussed later, comes to mind.

The horse that is the subject of this blog, and who is one of my all time favorites, Gio Ponti, entered the Arlington Million three times, from 2009 through 2011. He only won it in 2009, and finished 2nd in both 2010 and 2011.

Here is Gio Ponti in 2009, winning the 2009 Million.

Here is Gio Ponti in the 2010 Million, just getting beat by Debussy,who got a great, ground saving ride on the rail. Debussy went back to England, and didn’t do much. Debussy came back to the US, and finished fifth in the Breeder’s Cup Turf, and then won a minor stakes race in Europe.

Sometimes, a horse gets a break, and wins the race.

That’s horse racing though.

Here is Gio Ponti in his final appearance in the Million. It is the 2011 Million. He got into some tight quarters at the top of the stretch, and even though he was in the twilight of his career, he still showed that burst of speed.

Some had harshly criticized jockey Ramon Dominguez’ ride in that race, but sometimes the best laid plans don’t pan out.

I’m going to give credit where credit is due. Cape Blanco was a monster that year. Cape Blanco was very dominant, and he went on to win Eclipse Awards for his turf prowess.

Amazingly enough, Cape Blanco went from Ireland to the US and back, so I am not going to complain about Gio Ponti’s loss here.

Of course, Gio Ponti’s appearances, and his one win in the Million, are just small samples of this horse’s accomplishments. He had a racing career from age 2(2007) through age 6(2011).

Gio Ponti is a 3 Time Eclipse Award winner. He won Champion Older Male, and Champion Turf Male in 2009, and Champion Turf Male in 2010.

I am going to now discuss Gio Ponti, and his amazing career.

Gio Ponti was bred in Kentucky, and was foaled (born) on February 28, 2005. He’s owned by Shane Ryan’s Castleton Lyons Farm. Christophe Clement was Gio Ponti’s trainer. Tale of the Cat sired Gio Ponti, and Chipeta Springs (sired by Alydar) was Gio Ponti’s dam.

Early in the horse’s career, both Garrett Gomez and Ramon Dominguez took turns riding him. However, in early 2009, Ramon became Gio Ponti’s regular rider.

Gio Ponti is named for the famed Italian architect, and furniture designer who lived from 1891 to 1979.

As a 2 year old, Gio Ponti won his very first race, a maiden race, in September of 2007. He then won the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY.

He finished unplaced in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf, and then took time off to get ready for his 3YO campaign.

The highlights of this turf champion’s campaign were wins in the Hill Prince, and the Sir Beaufort Stakes in 2008. That year he also won the Virginia Stakes. He had fairly close seconds in the Del Mar Derby and the Jamaican Handicap.

After a fifth place finish in the Strub Stakes to kick off his 4YO season in February of 2009, Gio Ponti went on a tear. He would become a tour de force, both on the turf, and as a racehorse in general.

He would go on to only finish 1st or 2nd in Grade 1 Stakes races for the rest of the entire year of 2009.

Gio Ponti’s performances in that brilliant 2009 and in the next couple of years would cement his legacy as one of the best turf horses ever. I also can say as a fan, and a student of the sport(who continues to study)for over 36 years, Gio Ponti also showed why he is one of the best horses ever.

Gio Ponti won the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap(G1), The Manhattan Handicap(G1), The Man O’War Stakes(G1), and the Arlington Million(G1).

Gio Ponti was totally awesome that year. Just dominant. He totally kicked butt on the turf.

Since I showed his winning the Arlington Million, here is his victory in the 2009 Man O’War Stakes.

He did have two second place finishes. He finished second in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, and ended his 2009 with finishing second in the Breeder’s Cup Classic to Zenyatta.

In 2010, his connections brought him back to race as a 5YO.

Gio Ponti kicked off the year with a surprising nose loss in the Tampa Bay Stakes, as a prep for the Dubai World Cup, where he finished fourth.

After a three month break, Gio Ponti’s remaining balance of 2010 saw him have two stakes wins, and three second place finishes in stakes races.

He finished second in the Manhattan Stakes. Gio Ponti then won the Man O’War for a second time. Gio Ponti finished second in the Arlington Million, and then won the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY(see video).

Gio Ponti finished second to Goldikova(who won her third consecutive Breeder’s Cup event)in the Breeder’s Cup Mile.

Gio Ponti in the 2010 Shadwell Mile:

In his 6YO, and final year of racing, in 2011, Gio Ponti’s trainer, Christophe Clement could not find a good prep for the horse, so he sent Gio Ponti to the Dubai World Cup without one.

Gio Ponti finished a respectable fifth in the race.

Once again, after a break, Gio Ponti ran in several of the races he had previously entered in past years. He only won one of them, the Shadwell Turf Mile, defeating Wise Dan(who would go on to eventually become the 2012 Horse of the Year).

Gio Ponti finished third in the Mahattan. The bay horse then went on to finish second in the Man O’War, and the Arlington Million.

In his final race, the Breeder’s Cup Mile, Gio Ponti finished fourth to Court Vision, a horse that Gio Ponti had defeated in past races.

The stewards had to look at the race because there appeared to be some interference cause by the third place Goldikova, who failed in her bid to become the only horse in Breeder’s Cup history to win a BC race for the fourth consecutive time.

The stewards did not see what many, such as myself saw. On the video, it appeared to me that Goldikova nearly knocked down a couple of horses. It reminded me of the Zola Budd-Mary Decker collision in the 1984 Olympics.

Of course, being who she was, no way would the stewards DQ Goldikova. That would be like calling Broncos QB Peyton Manning for intentional grounding or something.

Anyway, Gio Ponti was retired at the end of 2011 to his home at Castleton Lyons in Lexington, KY, where he now stands at stud. He also is an Australian Shuttle stallion in cooperation with Arrowfield Stud.

Gio Ponti retired with a record of 12 wins, 10 second place finishes, and 1 third place finish from 29 starts, and had earned $6,171,370 in purse money.

I have been very fortunate to have seen him race three times. I have seen him race at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY, where I live. I saw him at both the 2010, and the 2011 editions of the Shadwell Mile.

I also saw him race at the 2010 Breeder’s Cup, when he ran what I thought was going to be his last race, in the BC Mile.

Fortunately, he ran in 2011.

Gio Ponti leaves an amazing legacy of great racing. He is a two time winner of the Man O’War. He has finished in the money 23 times out of his 29 starts. He is an Arlington Million champion. He won the Shadwell Mile twice.

He has been rewarded with his three Eclipse Awards.

Gio Ponti shows the great qualities of endurance, grace, and class. I have seen several photos of his foals, and I am encouraged that he will be passing on those great qualities to his offspring.

He also is an amazing horse to watch run in person. I was really in awe how impressive he looked under tack(saddle, saddle cloth with the number), and with his jockey on him.  He was so regal looking.

I have been honored to visit Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons several times. The farm is located in Lexington, KY, and is just stunning. Their site is

Gio Ponti is well worth visiting, and the staff members are awesome.

Gio Ponti is a very handsome stallion. Call me biased, but he is the best looking stallion in the Bluegrass. His bay coat just shines in the sun. He still knows he is a star.

It is amazing. These retired racehorses on the stud farms still know they have to pose for cameras. They still have the egos they had when they were running.

In other words, they know they are special.

Gio Ponti is not only special. He is one of the greats, and in my opinion, one of the best ever.

Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-

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Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-

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