10/10/2011 4:36PM

Keeneland: Gio Ponti proves quite special

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Gio Ponti (left), with Ramon Dominguez riding, earns a repeat victor in the Shadwell Turf Mile.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Gio Ponti, whose rallying triumph in the Shadwell Turf Mile on Saturday at Keeneland was a high point of an incredibly eventful opening FallStars weekend here, returned Sunday evening to Belmont Park in New York, where he will begin preparations later this week for his final career start in the Nov. 5 BC Mile at Churchill Downs.

Owner Shane Ryan of Castleton Lyons and trainer Christophe Clement took part in an emotional celebration as Gio Ponti returned to the winner’s circle afterward, fully aware of the import of the moment.

“He’s been great to all of us – my owner, my staff, myself,” Clement said the next morning. “It’s very exciting. He’ll be very difficult to replace. I have to enjoy because I know it’s going to be awhile before I get another one.”

Gio Ponti, a 6-year-old horse by Tale of the Cat, surpassed the $6 million earnings mark by defending his title in the Shadwell Mile, in which he earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure as the 19-10 favorite. The BC Mile will be his 29th start.

Meanwhile, Get Stormy, the Shadwell runner-up by just a half-length, also could race next in the BC Mile.

“It is disappointing to run that great and lose,” said trainer Tom Bush. “He just got beat by a very special horse. We will probably go to the Breeders’ Cup, but that’s not etched in stone.”

Easily the disappointment of the Shadwell was Zoffany, the Coolmore 3-year-old who never entered contention when finishing last of eight as the 5-2 second choice. T.J. Comerford, head traveling lad for trainer Aidan O’Brien, said Sunday that nothing seemed to be wrong with Zoffany. “He’s a much better horse than that,” he said.