Christophe Lorieul, assistant to Christophe Clement, said on Tuesday that Gio Ponti will make his next start in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) at Keeneland on Oct. 9.
Clement said they have ruled out the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) for Gio Ponti and it is now between the BC Mile (gr. IT) and the BC Classic (gr. I) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. Though Lorieul told me they have always believed that 1 1/4 miles in Gio’s best distance and that the Classic is still on the table, it is now clear that the 5-year-old is more likely for the Mile, especially since he would be making his first career start on natural dirt in the Classic.
<>“We could prep him in the Shadwell Mile and still run him in the Classic,” Lorieul said. “But I would say we are leaning toward the mile on turf, if it was up to us.”
In other words, unless the owner steps in and overrides Team Clement, Gio is going to the Mile. For the record, he is 3-for-4 at the distance--all of the wins in graded company.
If Gio does indeed go to the BC Mile, it does two things: First, it makes the Mile one of the most exciting and likely the deepest race of the World Championships. And second, it’s another severe hit the already thin group of American contenders in the BC Turf.
As of now, here are some of the top horses thought to be aiming toward a star-studded Mile:
From Europe, there is of course two-time defending champ Goldikova, the sensational mare who has won three of four this year and does not appear to have lost anything from 2009. She will be the favorite and the obvious horse to beat.
There is also 3-year-old colt Mafki, the lightly-raced colt that defeated Goldikova by 2 1/2 lengths in the Prix Jacques Le Marois last month on soft ground in France. Third in that race and only a neck back of Goldikova was Paco Boy, a three-time group I winner in Europe who could make his final career start in the race. Throw in Rip Van Winkle, a two-time group I winner at a mile who could opt for the Mile instead of the Classic, sprinter specialist Starspangledbanner, Prix du Moulin winner Fuisse, and multiple group stakes winner Famous Name, and you have one heck of a European contingent.
Many of the top North American-based turf milers will be running on Sunday in the Woodbine Mile, including Court Vision off a three-month layoff and California millionaire The Usual Q. T. Crowded House and Victor’s Cry, two other talented West Coast runners, will also run in the Woodbine Mile, as will a host of locals, including Grand Adventure.
Other top BC Mile contenders are talented mare Proviso, who has won three straight grade I races including the Kilroe Mile against males; Sidney’s Candy, so impressive in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) in his first start on turf last month; Twirling Candy, undefeated in four starts; Get Serious, the John Forbes trainee who just set the Monmouth Park one mile turf course record for the third time; and Enriched, owner of the best turf Beyer this season when he recorded a 111 figure at Hollywood in May at one mile and went wire-to-wire last out in the Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT).
Add in Gio to this group and you have the makings of one heck of a BC Mile. Stay tuned.