10/20/2010 2:12PM

Connections still undecided on Gio Ponti's spot

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Gio Ponti's connections have yet to decide whether the horse will run in the BC Classic or BC Mile.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is worth considerably more than the Breeders’ Cup Mile, no more so than in the case of Gio Ponti, who is under consideration for both races. The Mile is on his preferred surface, turf, on which he’d have to face Goldikova. The Classic is on dirt, a surface over which he’s never competed, and on which he’d have to face Zenyatta, Blame, and Quality Road.

It is not an easy decision, borne out by the fact that owner Shane Ryan of Castleton Lyons and trainer Christophe Clement were still debating the merits of both races Wednesday. The risk-reward ratio is stark. The $5 million Classic provides greater risk, because of the surface, but the upside is greater, for it would totally recast the prism through which Gio Ponti, a two-time champion last year, is viewed. The $2 million Mile is the seemingly more logical as two of Gio Ponti’s six Grade 1 wins have come at that distance. He has raced 18 times on turf and four times on a synthetic surface, including a second-place finish in last year’s Classic.

But beyond the immediate financial rewards of the races is the potential for increased valuation for Gio Ponti as a sire once his racing career is completed; he will stand at Castleton Lyons, whose most prominent current resident is Bernstein. Two respected bloodstock agents in Kentucky said the upside for the Classic is there, but the depression of the stallion market makes it a less lucrative venture than in years past.

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“If he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt against Zenyatta and Blame, it would add so much pizzazz,” Ric Waldman, a prominent stallion adviser for decades, said Wednesday from Lexington, Ky. “But he already has plenty behind him. He’s already appealing as a stud prospect to top breeders. There’s room to kick it up a bit. I would think there would be some upside, but it’s hard to quantify because no one knows where the stallion market is right now. To add the Classic would kick it up to the next level, whatever that level is.”

The market is so tamped down, according to Michael S. Brown, a recently retired bloodstock consultant, that he believes a Classic win would barely move the needle.

“In today’s market conditions, I don’t think you’d gain a whole lot if you win the Classic,” Brown said. “Five years ago, yes. Regardless, he won’t have trouble getting mares. He’s an attractive horse.”

Gio Ponti, 5, is by Tale of the Cat and out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs.

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“Tale of the Cat and Hennessy are the best-looking sons of Storm Cat I’ve ever seen,” Brown said. “And he’s got some Alydar in him, too. He stands over a lot of ground. He combines the best of both worlds. To me, he’s a $75,000 stud-fee horse. If we were discussing this last year, maybe he’d have been $100,000 to $125,000. But I really don’t think there’s much downside, no matter what they do.”

As to when Gio Ponti goes to stud, that will be “addressed at another time,” said Stuart Fitzgibbons of Castleton Lyons.

“While he has accomplished more than enough to enter the stallion ranks already,” Fitzgibbons said, “we are really only thinking of his next race.”