08/24/2010 3:43PM

Gio Ponti set to hit the track again

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Barbara D. Livingston
Next-race plans are uncertain for Gio Ponti, who ran second in his bid for a repeat Arlington Million victory.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Gio Ponti was scheduled to return to the racetrack for the first time here Wednesday following his second-place finish last Saturday in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. The double Eclipse Award winner circled six wide while rallying on the final turn and gained the lead between calls in the stretch before being outfinished by Debussy in defense of his title in the Million.

“He’s back here and came out of the race well,” trainer Christophe Clement said at his barn at the Oklahoma training center on Tuesday. “If everything is okay he’ll return to the track on Wednesday.”

Clement was happy with his horse’s performance but naturally disappointed by the final result of the Million.

“He ran very well, but he got beat,” said Clement. “My job is to win races and we didn’t win, so naturally I can’t be entirely happy.”

Clement said his plans for Gio Ponti remain up in the air at the present time.

“I’ll speak to the owner before we make a decision,” said Clement. “Our options include taking him back to California for the Goodwood or races like the Woodbine Mile and Shadwell Mile as a possible prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”

Qualia, Rightly So fire Ballerina bullets

Rightly So and Qualia, separated by a head when one-two in the Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont last month, prepared for their rematch in Saturday’s Grade 1 Ballerina by firing bullet workouts on Tuesday morning.

Rightly So, working over a good Oklahoma training track, went four furlongs in 46.04 seconds, the fastest of 49 works at the distance. Rightly So got her first quarter in 22.12. She galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.38.

“Too fast,” trainer Tony Dutrow said. “But she does everything too fast. I didn’t want 46, but I ain’t too worried about it. I just wish she would have been a little kinder on herself.”

Across the street, over a busy main track – also labled good – Qualia went four furlongs in 46.67 seconds, the fastest of 24 works at the distance. A pair of Neil Howard-trained horses were working at the same time and passed Qualia early in the work. In the stretch, Qualia wound up going by the Howard team.

“She always trains well but that wasn’t the game plan,” said Robert Ribaudo, trainer of Qualia. “I figured to wait until after the break when the track was better. Unfortunately, it was also more crowded. Neil Howard’s team broke off at the five-furlong pole while we were heading to the half-mile and my rider let them go. The filly looked comfortable and relaxed but picked it up when she started getting closer to those two. She went by them easily and geared down coming to the wire.”

Others pointing to the Ballerina include Devil By Design, First Passage, Informed Decision, Jessica is Back, Pretty Prolific, and Warbling.

Persistently likely for Personal Ensign

Persistently, who has recorded two of her three career victories at Saratoga, will likely jump into the deep end in Sunday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Personal Ensign where she will meet the reigning Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, and Life At Ten.

Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Persistently said, the 1 1/4 miles of the Personal Ensign and the likelihood of a small field make it worth taking a shot.

“I got nothing but respect for Rachel Alexandra,” McGaughey said. “The mile and a quarter distance, a lot of times that separates them. We know Life At Ten will run that far.”

Persistently is coming off a two-length victory in a second-level allowance race here going 1 1/8 miles here on July 30.

Classofsixtythree, third in the Grade 1 Ruffian last out, worked five furlongs in 1:03.31 Tuesday morning over the Oklahoma training track for the Personal Ensign.

Miss Singhsix, runner-up to Life At Ten in the Delaware Handicap, is the other horse expected to run in the Personal Ensign.

Hysterical Cat likely out of High Rock Springs

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he plans to scratch probable favorite Hysterical Cat out of Thursday’s $70,000 High Rock Springs Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds. But he still has a good chance to win it with Never Right Joey.

Hysterical Cat, who won his debut by 3 1/2 lengths as the favorite on Aug. 8, is likely headed to the $100,000 Aspirant Stakes at Finger Lakes on Sept. 6, Pletcher said. Still, Pletcher will go to bat with Never Right Joey, who won his debut by 4 3/4 lengths in the mud on July 24.

“Very professional – broke alertly, showed good speed, kept going,” Pletcher said. “I thought it was pretty good for a debut.”

Never Right Joey’s competition includes Private Rules, a second-out winner with Lasix added, Firepole, a debut winner at Keeneland who has lost three consecutive stakes, and Freuds Ana Streak, who makes her first start for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

Mine That Bird sharp in work

Mine That Bird worked six furlongs in 1:11.85 over the Oklahoma training track Tuesday morning in preparation for the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 4. He was equipped in blinkers, equipment he will wear for the first time in the Woodward.

Jockey Rajiv Maragh was aboard for the work, in which Mine That Bird went the first three furlongs in 36.03 seconds and the last three-eighths in 35.82.

“That was the best work he’s had since we’ve had him,” Lukas said.

Lukas said that while Maragh worked the gelding, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to replace Calvin Borel for the next race.

– additional reporting by David Grening