11/23/2011 10:45PM

In celebration of GIO PONTI

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Above:  Gio Ponti, age 2, at Monmouth Park in October 2007

GIO PONTI - 2005 b.h., Tale of the Cat - Chipeta Springs, by Alydar

I fell for Gio Ponti the first time I took his portrait.  He was a 2-year-old then, a lovely, dished face bay with a distinctive small star, large eyes and a gentle demeanor.  Assistant Nicholas Bachalard was grazing Gio Ponti, at Monmouth for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.  He mentioned that the colt was by Tale of the Cat and out of an Alydar mare.  That sealed the deal.  

Gio Ponti ran eighth in that Breeders' Cup, with a trip that resulted in this chart note: GIO PONTI steadied sharply in traffic through the opening quarter....

Gio Ponti carried on and, year after year, he worked his way into countless hearts as his connections gave him every opportunity to shine.  Win, lose or draw, in topnotch races around the country and in Dubai - and on turf, dirt and artificial surfaces - he always tried his best.  While 2009 was Gio Ponti's best year on-track - he won four consecutive Grade Is and was named champion turf horse and champion older male - he proved extraordinary over five seasons.  His final record was 29-12-10-1, with earnings of $6,169,800.

Thank you to Gio Ponti's owners for so gamely keeping him in training long after he could have been retired, and to the attentive trainer Christophe Clement and his caring staff for taking such good care of him.

Above and below:  Two-year-old Gio Ponti, Rodney Paine up, training for the Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park.  Over a bog-like course, and with a bad trip, Gio Ponti ran eighth.  It was his first of four Breeders' Cup appearances.

Above and below:  At Monmouth Park, 2007.

Above:  Gio Ponti lets out a yawn at Monmouth Park, 2007.

Above:  Three-year-old Gio Ponti wins the G3 Hill Prince over another favorite, Prussian.

Above and below:  2009 Manhattan (G1) on Belmont Stakes day.  Gio Ponti, Garrett Gomez up, was four, and at the top of his game.

Above and below:  Gio Ponti and Garrett Gomez, G1 Manhattan, June 2009

Above and below:  2009 Turf Classic, Ramon Dominguez up.  Gio Ponti ran second this day, over a soft course, to Interpatation.

Above:  Gio Ponti at Hollywood Park in 2009.

Above and below:  Gio Ponti and Ramon Dominguez head postward in the 2009 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.  It was Gio Ponti's second Breeders' Cup.

Above and below:  2009 Breeders' Cup - first time past, above, and heading to the finish (Zenyatta at left), below.  Gio Ponti is under green silks.

Above/below:  Gio Ponti (right), closest to Zenyatta at the finish of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic and, below, Gio Ponti (Ramon Dominguez) and Mine That Bird (Calvin Borel) return to be unsaddled.

Above and below:  Gio Ponti at Hollywood Park in December 2009.

Above and below:  Hollywood Park, December 2009.

Above:  There he goes again....yawning.  December 2009, age 4.  Gio Ponti liked to yawn - or maybe he was trying to talk with us.

Above and below:  5-year-old Gio Ponti before the 2010 Manhattan at Belmont.  Clement assistant Nicholas Bachalard, left, and groom Jose Jesus Torres at right.  Gio Ponti spent lots of time in the Belmont paddock, not just on race days but also in the mornings on his way to the track.

Above and below:  Gio Ponti and Ramon Dominguez in the drive to the wire in the 2010 Manhattan.  This day, he finished a close second to his Clement stablemate Winchester.  

Ramon rode Gio Ponti in 20 of his 29 starts.

Above:  Christophe Clement visits with Gio Ponti, after the stable's horses ran 1-2 in the Manhattan.

Above and below:  Gio Ponti during summer 2010 at Belmont.

 

Above and below:  Ramon Dominguez and Gio Ponti, victorious in the 2010 Man o' War (G1).

Above:  Coming down Belmont Park's Grade I victory lane with Castleton Lyons' Shane Ryan.

Above:  Heading back the test barn - Christophe Lorieul at left, Jose Jesus Torres at right.

Above/below:  After the race, guess what?  That's right...a contented yawn from Gio Ponti (above).  Below, assistant Christophe Lorieul thanks the multiple G1 winner.

 

Above:  Christophe Clement often allows his horses to have a good roll after their morning exercise, and Gio Ponti was no exception.  As he aged, his rolls sometimes became a bit less energetic, perhaps - but Gio Ponti thoroughly enjoyed them nonetheless.  

Above:  Christophe and Jose lead Gio Ponti to the paddock for the 2010 Breeders' Cup.  For the second straight year, Gio Ponti ran a strong second in the Cup - this time to Goldikova in the Mile (Turf).  

Above:  Gio Ponti during Breeders' Cup week.

Above and below: The now six-year-old Gio Ponti, Ramon Dominguez up, 2011 Manhattan (Belmont Stakes day).

Above and below:  Gio Ponti at his Belmont base, July 2011.

Above and below:  Gio Ponti spent time in Saratoga this summer.  It was so good to see his beautiful, familiar face in the mornings.

Above/below:  Above, with Christophe up, working with Armstrong Mill and, below, chasing En Fuego.

Above and below:  Looking happy at age 6, his final year in competition.  

Above:  How to make an unusually handsome horse look weird?  Photograph him yawning.

Above/below:  Christophe Lorieul gives Gio Ponti some love at Saratoga, 2011.  Below, Gio Ponti at Churchill Downs during Breeders' Cup week.

Above and below:  Breeders' Cup week 2011, Churchill Downs.

Above and below:  Heading to the paddock for his final race, the 2011 Breeders' Cup Mile.  Christophe Clement and Christophe Lorieul at left. Jose Jesus Torres, with the purple #5 vest.  This would be Gio Ponti's fourth Breeders' Cup appearance...making him well deserving of that classy GIO PONTI blanket.

Above:  Gio Ponti and Ramon Dominguez head postward.  Gio Ponti ran a solid fourth.  A model of consistency, the beautiful son of Tale of the Cat was on the board in 23 of 29 starts.

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"We are delighted to welcome Gio Ponti back home to the farm where he was bred and raised," said Shane Ryan, president of Castleton Lyons, upon announcing Gio Ponti's retirement. "The horse has had an amazing racing career with seven Grade 1 wins, three Eclipse Awards and in the money 23 out of 29 lifetime starts.

"Gio Ponti displayed great consistency, versatility and class, and retires completely sound after five very successful years on the track. I would like to thank Christophe Clement and all of his staff for handling Gio Ponti with such expertise..."