03/07/2009 1:00AM

Gio Ponti noses out Ventura in Kilroe


ARCADIA, Calif. - Not all of trainer Bobby Frankel's fillies and mares have perfect noses.

An hour after the Frankel-trained Stardom Bound won Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks by a nose, the heavily favored Ventura, the stable's leading older female, lost the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile against males by a similar margin.

Gio Ponti ($12.80) rallied from ninth in a field of 10 under jockey Ramon Dominguez to just catch Ventura in the $300,000 race.

Ventura, who won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap in her two previous starts, led in the final furlong, but could not keep the advantage.

Gio Ponti was timed in 1:33.65 for the turf race, recording the most prestigious win of her career.

"He's a Grade 1 winner," said Nicholas Bachalard, assistant trainer to Christophe Clement. "I wasn't sure he got up. The pace helped him."

Hewitts and Wise River disputed the early pace of 23.26 and 46.31 seconds, pulling away by as many as 4 1/2 lengths on the backstretch. They eventually faded to finish in the last two positions in the 10-horse field.

Gio Ponti was eighth with a furlong remaining, trailing then-leader Dixie Chatter by about four lengths. It was not until the final 50 yards that he reached contention. Ventura, the 9-10 favorite, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Dixie Chatter.

Ventura drifted to the inside when she reached the lead, forcing jockey Garrett Gomez to grab his reins at a pivotal point.

"It was hard to keep her straight," he said. "I thought coming to the wire we'd get there first. She ran a respectable race."

Ventura has finished second to males in two major stakes for turf milers; last fall she was second in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

Gio Ponti, 4, has won 6 of 11 starts and $1,005,800. The Kilroe was the fifth stakes win of his career and second at the meeting. Owned by Castleton Lyons, Gio Ponti won the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes here on Dec. 26.