11/01/2010 4:59PM

Gio Ponti to enter Breeders' Cup Mile, not Classic

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Gio Ponti's owner said his strong run in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland tipped their choice toward the Mile.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Gio Ponti will remain on turf and run in the Breeders' Cup Mile instead of making his first start on dirt in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs, owner Shane Ryan of Castleton Lyons announced Monday afternoon.

"Having thought long and hard about our choices, we have decided to enter our dual champion in the Breeders' Cup Mile," Ryan said in a press release. "As tempting as the Classic is, we were awed with his last trip over the mile course at Keeneland when winning the Shadwell Mile. It is due to this professional performance that we feel we must take on the best milers in the world, including a showdown with Goldikova."

Gio Ponti was the Eclipse Award-winning male turf horse and older horse last year. He finished second to Zenyatta in last year's Classic, when it was run on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. In his 22-race career under the care of trainer Christophe Clement, he has competed on turf 18 times, and four times on a synthetic surface, but has never raced on dirt.

"I'm not sure which filly is more feared, Goldikova or Zenyatta," said Ryan, who ended up choosing the race preferred by Clement. "Either way, neither race is a picnic. We are very much looking forward to the challenge."

By going in the Mile, Gio Ponti retains his regular rider, Ramon Dominguez. Had he run in the Classic, Gio Ponti would have needed a new rider, because Dominguez had committed to Haynesfield, the winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

The Mile field will be sensational. Goldikova will be seeking an unprecedented third straight victory in the race. Her rivals include Paco Boy, one of the top male milers from Europe, and now will have both the ranking male (Gio Ponti) and female (Proviso) milers from the United States.

The Classic field will now number 13. Sixteen horses were pre-entered in the race, but both Crown of Thorns and Dakota Phone are expected to go in the BC Dirt Mile.

Post positions for all 14 BC races to be run Friday and Saturday will be drawn on Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern time at Churchill Downs.