08/09/2009 11:00PM

Gio Ponti's future plans yet to be mapped out

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Four-Footed Fotos
Gio Ponti wins his fourth straight Grade 1 race in Saturday's Arlington Million.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - An English racing journalist last Saturday morning pointed out that the names of Gio Ponti's beaten opponents this year would not strike fear in the heart of a European trainer with a Grade 1 stakes horse. That's probably true, and the second- and third-place finishers from the 2009 Arlington Million, Just as Well and Stotsfold, are not going to be high on the list of top-rated horses in the world. But the point is that Gio Ponti keeps thumping whoever is thrown at him, running different kinds of races to suit different demands and winning all the while. In a year without Rachel Alexandra, Gio Ponti and his four straight Grade 1 grass victories would be running neck and neck with Zenyatta for Horse of the Year consideration, and even with Rachel in the picture, it will be interesting to see where Gio Ponti's connections go after his comfortable Million win Saturday.

Where the horse has gone for the time being is back to Belmont Park. He came out of the Million "in good order," trainer Christophe Clement said, and will have an easy week of training. But Clement said he could not say where and when Gio Ponti would next race and declined to speculate on the various options.

"On Wednesday, I'll go down to Belmont and see the horse, call Mr. Ryan, and we'll have a plan after that," Clement said.

Mr. Ryan is Shane Ryan, the principal in Castleton Lyons, Gio Ponti's owners. Ryan, judging by his enthusiasm and that of his mainly Irish entourage, probably would be game for any challenge up to and including the Arc de Triomphe. Clement may have a more conservative plan in mind.

Were he to remain in New York this fall, Gio Ponti's connections could consider the Bowling Green on Sept. 11, but that is only a Grade 2 with a $150,000 purse. The Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch is a more worthy spot, but it does not come up until Oct. 3. But north of the border is the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 20, and while Gio Ponti has been racing between 10 and 11 furlongs this summer, he is a Grade 1 winner at one mile. And not to be ruled out is a return to synthetic racing, with an eye on the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic. Gio Ponti won over Santa Anita synthetic going one mile last December, and though he was fifth there in the Strub Stakes, Clement pointed out last week that Gio Ponti raced wide and conceded weight.

"In the back of our mind then was the Pacific Classic and the Breeders' Cup," Clement said before the Million.

Mr. Sidney going back to a mile

Were Gio Ponti's connections to choose the Woodbine Mile, it could lead to a rematch with Mr. Sidney, who was no match for Gio Ponti going 1 1/4 miles here Saturday but who won two prominent turf miles earlier this year and will be turned back in distance, trainer Bill Mott said Monday.

"He could come back in the Shadwell Mile or the Woodbine Mile," Mott said.

Both Mr. Sidney and Dynaforce, the Beverly D. winner, have returned to Mott's barn at Saratoga. Dynaforce, who scored a mild upset at 7-1 on Saturday, is being pointed for a defense of her 2008 win in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont. Both the Flower Bowl and the Beverly D. were contested over wet turf, though Dynaforce has run well before on firm going, too.

"It's maybe more than coincidental that she's won her two Grade 1's on ground with some give to it," Mott said.

Dynaforce started 2009 slowly, finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Gallorette at Pimlico in her season debut before improving several lengths when third in the Modesty Handicap here last month.

"You always wonder deep down if they still can do it, but I thought she would improve," Mott said.

Catalano sweeps juvenile stakes

It felt like Wayne Catalano was having a midsummer dry spell. Don't look now, but Catalano is back in a big way. After Sunday's racing, he stood atop the Arlington trainer standings with 29 victories, and if all goes well, Catalano will have one of the favorites for both the Arlington-Washington Lassie and the Arlington-Washington Futurity next month. Catalano won both overnight stakes for 2-year-olds on Million Day, capturing the Top Flight with She Be Wild and the Spectacular Bid with Dixie Band.

She Be Wild debuted in a $40,000 maiden claimer but was the more impressive of the two juveniles Saturday. She stalked a hot pace and made a bold move off the turn to win the Top Flight by more than five lengths. Her seven-furlong time of 1:22.70 was faster than Dixie Band's 1:23.29 later on the card.

Catalano said he ran She Be Wild, a daughter of Offlee Wild, in a $40,000 maiden-claimer for several reasons.

"She was only 80 percent ready to run, and her shins were bothering her a little," Catalano said. "They had tried to sell her; she didn't even bring $19,000. She's a small filly, and I thought we could get away with it."

Catalano skipped an allowance spot for She Be Wild to go into the Top Flight with a fresh horse, and that worked perfectly. She Be Wild has shown she can go seven furlongs with no problem, and while Catalano said he has no idea if the filly will go two turns, he's confident she can get the one-turn mile of the Lassie.

Despite running his record to 2 for 2 with a 1 1/2-length win Saturday, Dixie Band remains a green horse, according to his trainer.

"He just did that on talent," he said. "He has no clue. You're waiting for a light to kick on with a horse like that. He just needs to learn, and I think experience is going to help him."