10/08/2011 6:08PM

Keeneland: Gio Ponti turns it on late to score Shadwell Mile repeat

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Gio Ponti surges to the lead in deep stretch of the Shadwell Mile.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – He’s the $6 million horse. Gio Ponti flashed his championship form again at Keeneland when knifing between rivals and nailing Get Stormy in the desperate final yards Saturday in the 26th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile.

By defending his title in the Shadwell, the richest race of the fall meet, Gio Ponti earned $360,000 to bring his career bankroll to $6,049,800 and make him 3 for 3 over the Keeneland turf course.

“He’s been such a wonderful horse for four years, and I’m glad it’s been for me,” said an elated Christophe Clement, who trains 6-year-old Gio Ponti for the Castleton Lyons of Shane Ryan.

Gio Ponti, a three-time Eclipse Award winner, returned $5.80 as the favorite in a field of eight after finishing the distance in 1:34.17 over a firm course. Get Stormy, overlooked at nearly 14-1, was a half-length behind the winner and another length before Sidney’s Candy. Wise Dan was another neck back in fourth.

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With Ramon Dominguez giving him a perfect ride, Gio Ponti was fourth for much of the way, while Sidney’s Candy led Get Stormy through fractions of 23.63 seconds, 47.08, and 1:10.91. Down the stretch, Get Stormy spurted away, but with Dominguez going to a rhythmic left-handed whip, Gio Ponti surged between Wise Dan and Get Stormy to edge away to a clear-cut win.

“We got a great trip,” said Dominguez, the longtime regular rider of Gio Ponti. “There wasn’t a great deal of concern when I saw Get Stormy pull away. This horse has a super impressive turn of foot.”

Ryan was as overjoyed as ever with the dramatic repeat by Gio Ponti, who four years ago emerged as a potential standout when capturing the Bourbon Stakes on the Keeneland turf. Asked whether the colt will make his final career start by facing Goldikova again in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Ryan grinned and said, “Why not?” The Shadwell is a fees-paid Win and You’re In event toward the $2 million BC Mile.

After Wise Dan, the order was Dance And Dance, Tajaweed, Society’s Chairman, and Zoffany. Clearly the disappointment of the race was Zoffany, the 5-2 second choice and the lone 3-year-old in the field.

Ontrack attendance amid brilliant sunshine and mid-80s temperatures was 26,003.

The Shadwell was the fifth and last graded race on the biggest day of the 17-day meet. In the earlier events: Havelock ($12.40) rallied to win the Grade 3 Woodford; Holiday for Kitten ($39.60) narrowly held off Musical Romance in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America; Never Retreat ($10) won her fifth graded turf race of the year in the Grade 1 First Lady; and Dullahan ($37.60), previously a maiden, upset the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity.