08/11/2009 11:00PM

Colt looked like a million, especially at 8-1


PHILADELPHIA - Were you ever so certain of something that you couldn't get the money out of your pocket fast enough? Well, I wasn't quite that certain on the first Friday of the Breeders' Cup, Oct. 26, 2007. But I became certain.

I had watched and re-watched the tapes of the unbeaten 2-year-old in his only two races. I thought I detected something special. The other 11 horses, in the first BC Juvenile Turf, were underwhelming. The yielding course was cause for pause, but 8-1 made it hard to resist.

Trainer Christophe Clement, then as now, was on a roll. Ramon Dominguez, then as now, was riding in great form. And the colt was 8-1.

The race was at one mile. I am not sure the colt I liked ever had a chance to run one inch. My 8-1 shot finished eighth. And that was my introduction to Gio Ponti.

It is not often I will pronounce that the horse who finished eighth was lengths the best. But I did that night over dinner, hard by the Atlantic Ocean.

I told everybody to put Gio Ponti on their watch lists and bet under any circumstance. I was that certain. The next race, it turned out, was not until the following June. Gio Ponti won the Hill Prince at Belmont Park. But the secret was out. The colt was 2-1.

Obviously, I was not the only one who had watched the tape. Check it out. The colt was crying to run for eight furlongs and never could.

Everybody, of course, now knows the rest of the story. Gio Ponti's Arlington Million win was his fourth consecutive Grade I win. The now-4-year-old colt is 8 for 12 on grass and has passed $2 million in earnings.

Clement, Dominguez, and Gio Ponti make a great team.

And I am still waiting for 8-1 again.

I will be waiting for a long time, forever actually.

Gio Ponti has been higher than 4-1 only twice, that day at Monmouth and when he won the March 7 Kilroe Mile to get the current winning streak started.

Before the Kilroe, Gio Ponti was good, but not quite what I thought he was in October 2007. He was solid, but seemed stuck in a nice, if not wonderful, dimension.

Then, Gio Ponti won the Kilroe at 5-1, followed by the Manhattan, the Man o' War, and the Million.

I don't know if Gio Ponti can beat the top Euro grass horses. Not even sure what BC race Clement may point for. Not sure that I care. The point has been made.

I just wish I had been along when it was being made at a price. That may be the hardest part of this game. Knowing what the right price is, getting it, and then winning the bet. Two out of three can give one some satisfaction, but that isn't how score is kept.

Timing, good and bad, is everything.

Speaking of timing, why can't Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta meet after the Breeders' Cup? The owners of both horses seem game to find a time and place. The racing season really doesn't have to end in early November.

I know what I thought of Rachel's Haskell. It was not much different than the conventional wisdom. She has that move that ends races in 10 strides.

I do wonder about Summer Bird in general and Munnings at nine furlongs, but I don't wonder about Rachel. She does not just win races. She overwhelms them, time after time.

Zenyatta is different, a good different. She doesn't seem to have that explosive turn move this year, and I really did think she was getting beat in the stretch on Sunday. Then, she goes the final sixteenth in under six seconds.

On the numbers, this is not close at the moment. Rachel got a Beyer Speed Figure of 116 in the Haskell while Zenyatta got only a 99 in the Clement Hirsch.

All things being equal, I do think Zenyatta would have a very difficult time catching Rachel. Spotting all those lengths to those horses she is beating in California is one thing. Spotting that many lengths to the Oaks, Preakness, and Haskell winner is quite another.

Zenyatta, however, runs a bit like a top-class Euro grass horse. She accelerates just enough to win the race, every race. So, figures, while certainly relevant, may not be quite as relevant in her case.

Rachel is evoking Ruffian comparisons. Zenyatta channeled Personal Ensign's finale in the Hirsch.

East Coast. West Coast. Unbeaten this year. Unbeaten every year.

I wouldn't be certain, but I would like to find out.