11/19/2013 11:41AM

Gio Ponti posts six-figure average at sales with first foals

Barbara D. Livingston
Champion Gio Ponti had an auspicious beginning at the November sales as his first foals generated a six-figure average at both Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland.

At the conclusion of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, which followed a strong one-night Fasig-Tipton November auction, Uncle Mo led all Northern Hemisphere-based sires whose first crop are weanlings in both gross and average at $1,947,000 and $129,800. Weanlings from several other first-crop sires also were well received at the sales, however, and one in particular reaped a six-figure average from his group, with success during Keeneland’s early and middle rounds: Castleton Lyons’s champion Gio Ponti.

One weanling by Gio Ponti sold at the Fasig-Tipton auction for $130,000 – a filly out of the multiple stakes-winning Lil’s Lad mare Shy Lil. At the Keeneland November sale, eight more Gio Ponti foals were bought, bringing his total for both sales to $1,132,000 with an average of $125,778.

Gio Ponti’s highest-priced weanling at the two sales came during Keeneland’s opening session, as a colt by the unraced Ghostzapper mare Eltimaas (a half-sister to champion Action This Day) went to Woods Edge Farm for $200,000. His second most expensive weanling brought $165,000 during the seventh session, when an Ontario-foaled colt out of the stakes-placed Kissin Kris mare Kissin Party was bought by JCDW.

Gio Ponti was inarguably one of the best American racehorses of recent years, as his three Eclipse Awards and $6.1 million bankroll indicate, and both his pedigree and racing performance make him appealing as a young stallion. The 8-year-old son of Tale of the Cat has ample stamina on his dam’s side, as he is out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs and related to several top-class Argentine horses who won at 1 1/4 miles.

As for durability, on the racetrack Gio Ponti answered every call during five confidently managed seasons by owner Castleton Lyons and trainer Christophe Clement.

In addition to his underrated bloodline and soundness, Gio Ponti was competitive in each of his 29 career starts; he didn’t always win but rarely gave less than his best effort. His running lines are bereft of words such as “faded” or “empty,” and the horse never backed off from a late-stretch challenge, even when facing elite horses such as Goldikova, Victoire Pisa, and Zenyatta.

Perhaps as impressive as his 12 wins from 29 starts and his seven Grade 1 wins are his 10 runner-up finishes, nearly all of them close. Gio Ponti’s largest margin of defeat was four lengths, and that happened once, in his third start. Moreover, despite never having raced on dirt, Gio Ponti never gave the impression that he was unsuited for that surface; on the contrary, he appeared capable of handling any venue throughout his career. The horse won under all turf conditions as well as on synthetic and ran very well indeed in his two trips to Meydan Racecourse for the Dubai World Cup.

The Jockey Club reported 111 live foals for Gio Ponti from his initial 148 mares bred last year, and those who have made it to auction have given the young sire a strong start in his second career.