08/04/2009 12:00AM

Gio Ponti tops nine-horse Million field


CHICAGO - The Arlington Million will be contested on Saturday in suburban Chicago at 1 1/4 miles - a distance roughly 22 miles shorter than that separating Arlington Park and the ESPN Zone in downtown Chicago, where the Million and its two supporting Grade 1 turf features, the Beverly D. and the Secretariat, were drawn Tuesday afternoon. The draw had Marines, Arlington-produced music videos, morning-line odds niftily posted on digital display boards next to a wall of television monitors. What it did not have were many connections associated with the 28 horses entered in the three stakes races, a situation owing as much to the distance between the Tuesday draw and Saturday's races as the gap between the draw venue and the racetrack itself.

As for the nuts and bolts of the proceedings: No surprises. The nine horses pre-entered late last week in the Million are the nine that passed the entry box Tuesday, with Gio Ponti installed by Arlington linemaker Joe Kristufek as a 5-2 favorite to give trainer Christophe Clement his first Million win. Given that Gio Ponti sports a three-race Grade 1 turf win streak and has established himself as the top turf horse in North America, the price could drop lower. Gio Ponti, to be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, drew post 6, not a bad spot considering that he will drop back for position during the first run down the home stretch.

Einstein, second choice at 4-1, drew post 1, which can be advantageous with the inner turf rail placed well out into the expansive Arlington grass course. Speedster Presious Passion has post 2, while the horse that could race closest to him in the early going, longshot Recapturetheglory, will break from post 9. Top U.S. miler Mr. Sidney drew post 3, and was made a 10-1 shot, while Arlington Handicap winner Just as Well, listed at 12-1, has post 3.

All three European invaders, Stotsfold (post 4, 12-1 odds), Gloria de Campeao (post 7, 5-1), and Cima de Triomphe (post 8, 9-2), have cleared quarantine, and were out to train Tuesday at Arlington. Stotsfold and Gloria de Campeao went to the dirt training track, while Cima de Triomphe galloped on the turf course.

Two other Euros, Black Bear Island and Alnadana, were en route to Chicago from Paris on Tuesday, and will not be cleared to train until Friday. Alnadana is bound for the Beverly D., and could be an early pace factor after drawing post 1 for the $750,000 race, which attracted a field of eight. Woodine-based Points of Grace (post 3) also has a touch of speed, while Tizaqueena, whose draw in post 6 pleased trainer Mike Stidham, also figures to be forwardly placed.

But the top two morning-line choices in the Beverly D., Pure Clan and Black Mamba, are closers. Pure Clan, who landed post 2, was installed as the 3-1 choice by Kristufek, while California raider Black Mamba is second choice at 7-2. Black Mamba drew post 4, which mattered little to owner Richard Templer, who was at Tuesday's draw.

"Not with her style and with eight horses in the field," Templer said.

Alnadana is one of three Europeans in the race along with the Irish filly Mad About You and Denomination, who is based in France. Dynaforce, third behind Pure Clan and Tizaqueena in the Modesty Handicap at Arlington, completes the field.

Giant Oak was made the 3-1 choice in the $500,000 Secretariat despite having turned in a subpar performance last out in the American Derby and drawing post 11 on Tuesday.

"You can't control the weather, and you can't control the draw," co-owner Rudy Tarra was heard to say to Arlington vice president of racing Kevin Greely.

With 11 horses, the Secretariat drew the biggest field Tuesday, but does not appear quite as strong as previous editions of the race. Take the Points, Reb, Laureate Conductor, Black Bear Island, and Oil Man all should have their supporters on Saturday.