11/03/2010 6:15PM

It's Goldikova vs. Gio Ponti in Breeders' Cup Mile

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The connections of Gio Ponti made the Breeders’ Cup Classic their first preference over the Breeders’ Cup Mile when pre-entries for the races were taken last week. Their decision to run in the Mile gives racing fans their first preference: Gio Ponti versus Goldikova.

Gio Ponti’s presence means that if Goldikova is to become the first three-time Breeders’ Cup winner, she must beat the best horse she has faced in the United States.

Goldikova against Gio Ponti provides the meat of the meal, but at least a few others among the 11 entered in the $2 million Mile have reasonable hope. Sidney’s Candy, who set a course record in his only turf start a course-record-setting 1 for 1 in his turf career, will attempt to become the first wire-to-wire Mile winner since Lure in 1992. Proviso, another filly, has 2010 form to put her in Goldikova’s league, and though Goldikova has beaten Paco Boy in their three matchups, Paco Boy has challenged her.

Goldikova’s trainer, Freddie Head is back at Churchill Downs for the first time since he rode Miesque to her second BC Mile victory in 1988.

“It gives me a little emotion to be back here so many years afterward,” Head said when making his first appearance of the week Wednesday.

Head’s primary emotion, though, appeared to be happiness. That’s the nature of the man, but Head also is comfortable with the way Goldikova is coming up to her third BC Mile. She has won four of her five starts this year, her lone loss coming over the kind of boggy course that diminishes Goldikova’s brilliant acceleration. Such conditions are of no concern here at bone-dry Churchill.

“She loves fast, fast ground,” Head said.

Goldikova is drawn wide in post 10 but won last year from post 11 at Santa Anita. Olivier Peslier is the only jockey ever to ride Goldikova in a race, and with a decent start, the two figure to work out a trip.

Goldikova, though, could hear Gio Ponti’s footsteps in deep stretch Saturday. Gio Ponti, a dual 2009 champion, finished second in the 10-furlong Classic in 2009, but with a powerful victory in the Shadwell Mile last month, he showed that one mile on grass is as good a trip as any for him.

“When a horse is as good as Gio Ponti, he can adapt to different distances,” trainer Christophe Clement said.

Gio Ponti has worked once, five furlongs on turf Oct. 24, since the Oct. 9 Shadwell, and he was among the last horses to arrive here this week. Clement plans meticulously, and Gio Ponti’s preparations have unfolded as conceived.

“He’s pretty sharp at the moment,” Clement said.

In the camp of Paco Boy, there is belief that their horse can turn the tables on Goldikova.

“We’ve drawn well, and she’s drawn poorly, so that’s to our advantage,” assistant trainer Richard Hannon Jr. said.

And like Goldikova, the very firm condition of the grass course is no concern for Paco Boy.

“He goes on everything,” Hannon said.

Proviso was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Goldikova when they last met, but that was 2009 in France, and Proviso, a standout during morning training here this week, has gone 4 for 4 in Grade 1 turf races this year, beating males in the Kilroe Mile last March.

“I hope they both have good trips, and we’ll see what happens,” said trainer Bill Mott, who has won five Breeders’ Cup races but not the Mile.

Barring misfortune, Sidney’s Candy will quickly make the lead in the Mile. He set a furious pace while establishing a Del Mar course record in the Aug. 14 La Jolla Handicap, his most recent start, and though trainer John Sadler said he doesn’t believe Sidney’s Candy needs a breakneck pace to succeed, Sadler plans no change in tactics.

“He wants you to turn his head loose,” Sadler said. “The one thing you don’t want is to take away his speed.”

Court Vision, fourth in the 2009 Mile, got a perfect trip en route to victory in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on Sept. 19. The Usual Q.T. finished second that day with a far more difficult journey and could come late to factor at a price Saturday. Delegator has stronger form than Beethoven, but neither of the other Euros looks like a solid win threat. Get Stormy should sit second behind Sidney’s Candy. Society’s Chairman earned his way here with a second to Gio Ponti in the Shadwell but has yet to win even a Group 2 race.