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Contact: David Zenner
GIO PONTI GETS 4TH STRAIGHT GRADE I WIN IN ARLINGTON MILLION XXVII
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (Aug. 8, 2009) – Firm or yielding ground hasn’t mattered. East Coast or West Coast hasn’t mattered, and now Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti has won his fourth straight Grade I race – this one in the Midwest over a course rated “good” – by dominating Arlington Million XXVII against international competition.
Trained by French-born Christophe Clement, saddling his first Arlington Million winner, Gio Ponti split rivals under the guidance of jockey Ramon Dominguez, took command in upper stretch and drew off late for a 1 1/4-length tally as the 15 to 10 choice of the fans.
Clement, recognized as one of the world’s best turf trainers for some time, has conditioned three winners of Arlington’s Grade I Beverly D. Stakes – the Million’s sister race – notching back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2008.
Gio Ponti, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old by Tale of the Cat, began his current string of victories by winning California’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Handicap at Santa Anita March 7 on firm turf, continued his rise by winning New York’s Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 6 over yielding ground, and then captured Belmont’s Grade I Man o’ War July 11 back on firm turf before underlining his superiority in this summer’s Million on a course rated “good.”
“We were very patient with (Gio Ponti) when he was a 3-year-old and he keeps maturing and is a better 4-year-old,” said Clement in post race comments immediately after the Million. “There are many good races around and he could go in any one of them. Let’s just enjoy today.”
Gio Ponti, who increased his career earning to $2,133,800 with his ninth win in 14 lifetime starts, paid $5, $3.40 and $2.60 and accomplished the 10-furlong distance in 2:04.19. Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well got up for the second spot, returning $11.80 and $6.80, while finishing a head to the good of the European invader Stotsfold, a British-bred owned by Peter Harris, who paid $9.80. As expected, Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion made the early pace with splits of 23.98 and 48.44 before tiring to finish eighth.
“(Gio Ponti) is a great horse,” said jockey Dominguez, who like Clement was registering his first win in the Arlington Million. “He just does everything so easy. I was a little concerned with the way the turf was playing all day. He stumbled a little bit out of the gate and I thought it would compromise my chances but right away he came back up and was on the bridle, taking me every step of the way. He’s a pleasure to ride.”
Gio Ponti’s owner Shane T. A. Ryan of Castleton Lyons announced a donation of $29,400 (or five percent of the Arlington Million’s winner’s purse) to the Permanently Disabled Jockey’s Fund (PDJF).
Arlington Park – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run a 98-day meet in 2009 from Friday, May 1 through Sunday, Sept. 27. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 10 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Chicago, Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Rockford, Trackside Waukegan, Fat Sam’s Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in Lockport, Lucky’s featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin, Nicolino’s featuring Trackside OTB in McHenry, Tad’s Sports Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in South Beloit and Salerno-Pincente Ristorante featuring Trackside OTB in Hodgkins. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com.
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