Countdown to the Cup: Golly Gio, the Classic?

OK, here’s something to ponder. With a number of question marks regarding this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) hopefuls, why shouldn’t the connections of Gio Ponti give the Classic serious consideration?

After all, many think Quality Road is not at his best going 1 ¼ miles; Lookin At Lucky is way behind in his training and won’t make the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) Sept. 25; the status of Rail Trip is still up in the air; Richard's Kid looks like he does his best running on Del Mar’s Polytrack; and even Zenyatta will be making only her third start on dirt and first on a dirt surface other than Oaklawn Park. If Zenyatta is the Classic favorite, then where is Gio Ponti, who was beaten only a length by her on a track she loves?

Continue reading this story, or feel free to share your comments below...

136 Comments

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Dr Drunkinbum

I remember looking at Gio Ponti's pedigree a few months ago and saying, "that's weird, looks like a dirt pedigree. I guess you never know." I love your Jockey Gold Cup idea. Why not? He doesn't look to be up to the task of beating the Euros on turf at that distance anyway. He could be one of those rare ones that excel on any surface or they may find out he is a dirt superstar. Yeah, I think if he can keep up with Blame, he's got at least second. I still don't see how Lookin At Lucky is going to be ready, but if entered he will give 110 percent. I wonder what Gio's connections are thinking. Hopefully what Steve Haskin is thinking. You might get The Light Bulb Idea Award for this one. But if Gio goes in the Classic, and he's the one that beats Zenyatta, I'm going to be mad as bloody ell. "Why wasn't Gio on turf where he belonged."

08 Sep 2010 10:46 PM
4certain

I agree completely Steve.  A win would be a very big plus for this horse as a stallion. You can't win if your not in the race and he has been competitive before. As far as who he would have to beat, A lot can happen between now and then.

08 Sep 2010 10:56 PM
Carlos Barrera

Awsome, the clarity and logic in your comments makes an easier understanting on the analisys.

Kudos.

08 Sep 2010 11:09 PM
Carlos Barrera

Kudos on your analisys.

08 Sep 2010 11:10 PM
John T

If I were the owners of Gio Ponti

I would definitely run in the Breeders Cup Classic.The Breeders Cup Turf over 12 furlongs is a race apart as clearly shown by that great French jockey Yves St Martin in the first running of the race.And what a great momemt it was

when Pat Eddery got that never to be forgotton filly Pebbles up to win it.Sometimes the race is hard to bear like the time Dancing Brave looked so much out of place in California.But overall despite

the travelling this is a race were the Europeans can always be proud of.

08 Sep 2010 11:53 PM
Manny Runsfelt

I agree that Gio Ponti should run in the Classic. I was disappointed to hear that they seem to be planning on running him in the Turf Mile.

08 Sep 2010 11:58 PM
Ranagulzion

His dirt pedigree is strong but last year's BCC on the turf-like Pro-ride indicate that Gio Ponti has no shot at defeating Zenyatta on dirt this year, let alone Quality Road, especially with his form having dipped a bit this season.  He is not the type to be entered in a race for just a minor placing.  He has a better shot on his preferred surface in the 12 Furlongs Turf Classic, notwithstanding his stamina limitations ...his class could compensate.

09 Sep 2010 12:14 AM
John

Steve,

You mention that Gio Ponti only has a length to make up with Zenyatta.

Well, then that logic can be applied to Rinterval, St. Trinians, and even Anabee's Creation.

That's the way Zenyatta wins her races.

Someone asked Martin Garcia after his race aboard St. Trinians whom gave perhaps the guttiest try of the year what he thought about losing such a close race to Zenyatta and flatly said this about Zenyatta..."She's just too much horse...".

Then he just walked away shaking his head.

Despite losing by a length to Zenyatta, I tend to think the connections of Gio Ponti think the same way.

09 Sep 2010 1:02 AM
Steve Haskin

John, I understand the point you're trying to make, but do you dispute the fact that he has one length to make up on her?

09 Sep 2010 1:24 AM
Bellwether

HIS CONNECTIONS SHIPPED HIM LATE FORE THE DUBAI RACE & HE HASN'T BEN THE SAME CENT$...IF THEY DUE HIM RITE HE HAS A HUGE DIRT RACE LEFT N HIM FER SURE...LONG LIVE THE KING!!!...

09 Sep 2010 1:41 AM
gammyp6

I have great respect for Gio Ponti,

QR,Blame and so on...BUT the Classic belongs to Zen...again. I fully believe that she has a date with destiny. Like Tiznow she will win back to back Classics. His rivals had less than a nose to make up on him.

09 Sep 2010 1:50 AM
davec

I say the classic is his best option.  It should set up well for him.

09 Sep 2010 6:01 AM
WinnahPickah

Zenyatta gets the longest stretch of her career. Synthetic to dirt has been a good angle all year. Am I really gonna get 5/2 on her again.

Mr. Haskin, Gio Ponti is better off battling euros than the best horse. I respectfully disagree.

09 Sep 2010 6:46 AM
Oldtimer in VA

Very good points, Steve. Losing 6 of last 7? Time for a change. There's probably no beating Z, but who knows? Many runners who looked unbeatable have gone down (like RA.) And I believe Ramon is a better dirt rider than on turf, as well. Lots to like in that scenario.

Now, do me a favor: don't talk about Gio anymore. Maybe we can get 4-1 on the big day!!

09 Sep 2010 7:44 AM
shane

very good observation Steve, he would definately be the horse in the field who has gone 1 1/4 multiple times and run valiantly. There is always the question of how feels about dirt in his face, but stamina wise I think he looks good in there.

09 Sep 2010 8:22 AM
shane

Oh yeah, Steve do you know if Rachel breezed this Monday?

09 Sep 2010 8:24 AM
Lexie

Great points Steve! I love Gio Ponti and he flat out ran his eyeballs out in that Classic against Zenyatta last year. Why not give him another chance? NOt that I want anyone beating the Queen but you never know.

09 Sep 2010 8:29 AM
Giddyup

Another good blog Steve. There are countless possible scenarios that can play out between now and the Breeders Cup not just for Gio Ponti but for several other prominent players as well. I think the most important point you made is that it is all about timing. I'm sure the connections are looking at many of the same factors as you have and are trying to evaluate the variables in order to formulate a plan that gives Gio the best chance to achieve success. Regardless of what race he ends up competing in you can be sure he won't be taken lightly by the opposition.

09 Sep 2010 8:30 AM
Slew

While I love Gio Ponti, He's had a tough year.  And I was more than impressed by the closing kick of Debussy.  Are there plans to have Debussy in the Breeders' Cup?  Where ever he goes might determine where Gio won't go. (but I still don't think Gio saw him coming up the rail)

I know, Steve, that I love your writing and your insight.  However, after watching "And They're Off", I am head over heels in love with you.   Super Bowl at Cowboy stadium this year?  After 50 years of being a Cowboy fan, I hope Dallas can overcome their terrible preseason games and finally fulfill their true potential...and not choke in December.  I still think they were the best team last year; they better not fall apart this year in the play-offs. (I still miss Tom Landry.)

If Gio does head to the Classic, I don't think he'll get that close to the Zen again...let alone make up a length.

09 Sep 2010 8:57 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Gio Ponti ran a monster race in last year's Classic. He'd be defending his title if it wasn't for an old mare that got on the express bus, and flew past them all to get to the half off sale in the women's department at Penny's ahead of everyone else so she could get the pick of the litter of the sweaters. She did quite well too. You'll be seeing her wearing a very sporty sweater that she'll be showing off in an early morning workout at CD. I hear it gets mighty cold out in Kentucky. Zenyatta knew what she was doing, planning ahead like that. You'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull the wool over her eyes.

09 Sep 2010 10:16 AM
JT76

Excellent points and certainly something I would love to see happen...I'm all for adding as much class to the Classic as possible as it only serves to bolster The Queen's legacy after she mows them all down!!  LOL  Seriously though, I love Gio Ponti and you hit the nail on the head..he is well suited for another run at the Classic and I would love to see a slugfest of champions.

09 Sep 2010 10:34 AM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

Intriguing idea! I never gave that possibility a thought... until you brought it up. Wow! More stuff to mull over. I love Gio Ponti. I didn't like rooting against him last year, I would not like it any better this year. But I can see your point. What to do? What to do with a horse whose best surface is turf but best distance is 1 1/4 miles and no race that combines these criteria? Mull over, mull over. Grumble, grumble...

09 Sep 2010 11:11 AM
Rachel O

Just remember, Steve, that Zenyatta runs only as fast as she has to to overcome her rivals. After the BCC last year, Mike said, "We still didn't hit all gears."

BTW I had no idea that Mine That Bird was hurt in the BCC. What exactly happened? I thought all the horses came out of the BC races hale and hearty, except for poor spooked Quality Road.

(Someone said that QR freaked out when he got his first glimpse of Zenyatta. Another said he fell in love with her and was totally riled up about that.)

09 Sep 2010 11:15 AM
MOKEY

I think they should try. Remember it always seems to rain on Breeder's cup day in Ky and Zenyatta has NEVER run on an off track. Last time she was in KY, it rained and she never ran. I don't believe she'll run this year because of that. Maybe Mine That Bird could win again in the slop - and that would be funny!

09 Sep 2010 11:25 AM
Pam S.

Gio is one of my favorite horses, so I have to weigh in here.  Last year, he chose the Classic in large part because one turf race was a bit long and the other a bit short, and that's still the case this year, being that the distances haven't been changed!  And I think that to beat the best Euro horses, you have to be able to beat all the Americans, and Gio hasn't quite been able to do that this year.  

So I say go for it in the Classic.  Good horses run on any surface and he is without question a good horse.  Can he beat Zenyatta this year?  I don't know, but I think he's be right there again.  A dirt prep would be the best way to get a read on that, but the grass-to-dirt angle is a good one too.

I just want to see Gio do well again at the BC, and I think the Classic deserves a lot of consideration.

09 Sep 2010 11:30 AM
KevinL

Interesting. I am a huge fan of Gio Ponti and appreciate the connections taking him wherever the race might be, Dubai or Chicago, Florida, NY or California. I would have never thought of the Classic, I was thinking France myself. Allow me to throw this in. I would like to see Zenyatta in the Breeder's Cup Turf, taking on the Euro colts on grass.  Would that be a record to hang your hat on? 3 different Championships. I am afraid that Gio is not quite what he was, but I know the decision won't be based on avoiding Zenyatta or Glodikova. I like Campaigns that challenge horses, and Zenyatta on Grass or Gio Ponti on Dirt are exciting to me.  

09 Sep 2010 12:45 PM
CarolinaJude

Nice analysis but Gio doesn't have any better chance of beating Zen than last year.  Ditto Quality Road (even if he DOES decide to go in the starting gate this year).

I agree with whoever said that Queen Z has "a date with destiny".

Gio's a good horse so put him in a BC race that he can win and take to the stallion barn with him!

09 Sep 2010 12:55 PM
The Cold Hard Truth

All these horses are wasting their time (with Zenyatta in the race). They are all running for 20% of the purse (or less) in the Breeders Cup Classic.

09 Sep 2010 1:24 PM
robb

Blame will beat Zenyatta, Quality Road and Gio Ponti.

09 Sep 2010 3:19 PM
Livesoutwest

Zenyatta would not only beat Gio Ponti on a fast dirt track, she would DESTROY him.  Just as the connections of Rachel Alexandra should do, cross-enter in two BC races and then pray for rain.  That's the only realistic chance either has of winning the Classic.

09 Sep 2010 3:27 PM
dinkydiva

RachO...  (Someone said that QR freaked out when he got his first glimpse of Zenyatta. Another said he fell in love with her and was totally riled up about that.)

I had said something similar after the Classic last year!!  I also said: that he didn't want to get into the gate with a GIRL.lol

09 Sep 2010 3:35 PM
Bellwether

SHE WON'T DESTROY GIO PONTI...PERIOD...TY...

09 Sep 2010 4:57 PM
John

I understand that ticket sales are 100% ahead of last year's sales whereas over 96,000 attended the two day event.

Sure it's Churchill Downs, but is anyone going to question Zenyatta's attraction.

I look for Saturday's attendance to rival those for Derby day (150,000).

09 Sep 2010 5:04 PM
Steve Haskin

To the people who  posted that Zenyatta is an absolute lock in the Classic and the others are wasting their time running: I'm just curious how long you have been involved in racing? I'm trying to gauge the experience that goes along with that comment. I can't call it an opinion, because it sounds like this is a fact. Zenyatta obviously is going to be very tough to beat, but it's been my experience in racing that when you get that cocksure of yourself and brash about a horserace, you're in danger of looking foolish. I leave you with these famous words: "There is nothing like a horse to make a person look like an ass."

09 Sep 2010 5:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Actually, that might be "feel like an ass," but you get the meaning.

09 Sep 2010 5:42 PM
Vince

this is a fascinating article and this will be a long post apologies in advance). zookeeper hit it squarely on the head. gio is best on turf but doesn't get 12 furlongs, not as well as others anyway. no bc race ideal for him. don't go for the mile, it is a hot division this year in europe. goldikva and makfi from france, canford cliffs and paco boy from england. and the irish usually come up with something on the day. these are specialist milers and gio ponti wouldn't see which way they went in the last furlong.the turf 12 furlong is an option this year as the european division looks fairly weak (just my opinion) since harbinger retired. maybe a couple of french 3 year olds but they don't seem to turn up at the bc these days. maybe the english fillies but I doubt it. but would gio even beat paddy o' prado? ideally, gio ponti should have raced in europe. we have about 6 or 7 group 1 10 furlong races, all very prestigious and worth winning and I am sure he could have won a couple.

however, I have a few questions for people out there. if the dirt/pro-ride discrepancy is so strong, why is zenyatta considered such a certainty by some? last year I thought the general consensus was she couldn't/wouldn't go on dirt. I must admit I don't understand the surfaces in america. gio ran well in dubai. is that the same sort of surface as churchill downs or is it more like california? and what about quality road? he is 8/1 in europe to win the classic (gio is 25s by the way) but he looks to have the most rock solid form of any horse in there. am I missing something here before I invest my hard earned cash on him.

I love the breeders cup and like american racing in general, which I try to follow on you tube (thanks party manners by the way). I think one advantage euros have over the us is that from july onwards we have almost no 3-y-o only top races. everything all-aged. I saw 2 races the other week on you tube from saratoga, the woodward and the travers. what is the point of that? more or less same distance, same grade. why separate them? in britain and ireland we know now what is what and you are still wondering whether the three year olds are good enough or if the fillies can handle the colts. chuck em all in together from july and you don't have that problem. ok rant over. thanks folks and really looking forward to the breeders cup. answers to my questions much appreciated.    

09 Sep 2010 6:06 PM
John

Steve,

..."look like an ass, or feel like an ass...".

You got the ass part right.

It's Zenyatta's ass they'll be looking at in the Classic.

And by the way, I'm been following horseracing since the days of Dr. Fager, Damascus, and Buckpasser.

She is, indeed, the greatest female racehorse I've ever seen, bar none.

09 Sep 2010 6:17 PM
Dakota

Mr. Haskin - You asked John: "... do you dispute the fact that he has one length to make up on her?"

Yes, Gio has one length to make up. The problem is that if he runs one length faster, Zenyatta likely runs one length faster as well. It seems that Zenyatta gets just in front of her competition and stays there. Particularly this year. She rarely runs on by. Maybe that means she isn't as sharp as she was last year. Or, as others who know her have suggested, she just sort of plays with her competition.  I think Zenyatta is better than all these other horses headed to the Classic. She should win. But I'm not going to tempt the racing gods and declare that she is a lock to do so.

09 Sep 2010 6:36 PM
John

And Steve,

I know exactly what your're doing.

With the year that Rachel Alexandra has had and the questions regarding Quality Road and the fact that Blame has exactly two Grade 1 wins to his credit it is hard to get excited about this year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

It just might be the most uninspiring Classic of all time.

Look, the Europeans don't want anything to do with Zenyatta.

They may not race anyone against her this year.

Zenyatta has forced countless horses into retirement, into the sidelines, or out of her way.

The horses that have faced her this were far and few between, and realistically, only in it for the place money.

She is undoubtable the greatest attraction the Breeders' Cup has ever had, bar none.

Thousands from around the world will watch with anticipation for Zenyatta to retire undefeated, that is, of cource if she wins the Lady's Secret on Oct. 2.

I also gather that the BC people are overwhelmed with requests from the horseracing media, such as the BCC, from around the world for creditials to this event.

Go Zenyatta, Go!

09 Sep 2010 6:44 PM
Steve Haskin

Vince, England for example has far fewer horses and far less racing dates than we do in America. your horses are pretty much sorted out by July, because you have major Guineas and Derbys in three different countries. We have a lot of late-developing 3-year-olds who are not ready for the spring classics and we require a longer time to sort out our 3-year-olds. If we have a promising 3-year-old who doesnt get good until June or July it wouldnt be fair to the horse or the connections to have to run him against older horses before he's proven he can beat top-class 3-year-olds.

09 Sep 2010 6:45 PM
AndAwayTheyGo

I believe GP should run in the BC. I agree with most of Steve's idea. However, to me, GP's preformance in the Dubai WC was dissapointing, considering he was beat by "Lizard's Desire". I expected more of him in that race, and I dont think he is a horse that will fight back against a strong closer like Zenyatta in the 1 1/4 mile Classic.

If the connections of GP decide to enter him in the Classic, I believe the results will be similar to last year. Zenyatta first by a length or two, GP second, then Blame or Quality Road third.

09 Sep 2010 6:46 PM
Steve Haskin

Dakota, I merely stated a fact. You countered with speculation. You may be right, but fact is fact and speculation is speculation. He has one length to make up on her, period. Whether she will run one length faster as well is pure speculation.

John, after Zenyatta wins the Classic, I trust you will be the first to say she beat the "most uninspiring" Classic field "of all time."

09 Sep 2010 6:54 PM
John

Steve,

Nope.

If she wins the Classic, it'll just be like adding notches to the belt, that by the way, is starting to look  pretty ragged.

09 Sep 2010 7:07 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve. There are absolute locks in horse racing. In hindsight. Maybe that's the ass part you are talking about. You could say that Twirling Candy was a lock in his last, bet the farm on him, and that would have been the luckiest score of the farm bettors life, despite the fact that he easily won. At this point, far, far away, I would give Blame and Zenyatta pretty much equal odds as the favorites and Quality Road as the next choice. I personally think that QR has to have things go more his way than the other two do. I just wish Lucky could enter in top form, but I don't see how he could be in top form. He's capable of giving anyone a dog fight. Anyone.

09 Sep 2010 7:13 PM
Rachel O

Steve,

I've seen Z race four times, and each and every time I think she's going to lose. It's not only the competition she's toying with. Looks to me like she knows exactly what she's doing and gets the biggest of kicks out of it (pun intended). If she actually does lose, I wouldn't be surprised if she vanishes into thin air. That's just how unearthly a lot of us think she is... Mike would be left on the track scratching his head.

I'm still waiting for the answer to what happened to Mine That Bird in terms of injury in the BCC. Anybody know?

09 Sep 2010 7:20 PM
Mary in VT

Speaking of the Breeder's Cup, I am trying to figure out if I want to go, or if I should stay home and watch on the tube. I have never been to Churchhill Downs. Is Churchhill Downs spectator friendly?

I was talking with a lovely older couple from IN that came to see Rachel at Saratoga, and they seemed to think that CD was not that comfortable a track to visit. They said it either does not have a track side apron like Saratoga, Monmouth Park, etc., or it won't let people stand there to see the horses run right at their level. Apparently, you have to buy a ticket and sit in a seat. Does that sound right? Sounds far too civilized. : D

Can anyone jot down a little survival guide to see the BC at CD?  Pretty please?

Oh yeah. The horses. Gio Ponti. Wonder what they call him for short? Gio? Gee?

I don't care who wins. Just let them all have a perfect trip, give it their best shot, and come home safe.

09 Sep 2010 8:15 PM
Dakota

Mr. Haskin: "I merely stated a fact. You countered with speculation. You may be right, but fact is fact and speculation is speculation. He has one length to make up on her, period. Whether she will run one length faster as well is pure speculation."

I disagree. It isn't speculation; it is scientific extrapolation. Was Gio all out last year going to the wire? It sure looked like it. Was the Big Mare all out passing him? Based on a long life around horses (and validated by none other than Ron Ellis): not according to her ears, she wasn't. They were still flicking around. Until the wire. When she pricked 'em straight up.

09 Sep 2010 8:54 PM
Rita

I love Zenyatta with all my heart and soul and I hope she does not lose any races but I am real enough to know it could happen. You never know in racing what might come up.Every race of hers I've screamed,cried, yelled and prayed as hard and loud as I could. I scare my poor cats to death thats why I try to be alone when watching one. So far I think the prayers work because God loves her too.I think all the horses will have their work cut out for them tho.

09 Sep 2010 9:36 PM
Robin from Maryland

Long live the Queen.  She's head and shoulders above anyone.  Can't wait for the classic.

09 Sep 2010 9:53 PM
Steve Haskin

How did this, like everything else that is written, become about Zenyatta? Last I looked, this was about Gio Ponti in the Classic. OK, so Gio Ponti has no chance of beating Zenyatta. Zenyatta has zero chance of losing, and we've learned some kind of science lesson from Dakota that I still haven't figured out.

I also root like crazy for Zenyatta, but let's be a little bit rational. If you say Gio Ponti shouldnt run in the Classic for whatever reason, that's fine. If you feel he cant beat Zenyatta, that's fine. Chances are he's not even going to run in the Classic, but the blog is about him.

09 Sep 2010 10:50 PM
jayjay

Rita : I'm also a die hard fan of Zen.  And yes, it could happen, she could lose.  In fact, it can happen in the LS but the thing about Zenyatta is that she always surprises you with another gear.  Every time she races, you always start with the feeling of "oh crap, that's way too far back".  Halfway through the race, you start to get the feeling of "yes...yes...come on girl...keep going..."

Then...they get to the final turn and she starts roaring, still many lengths.  You start turning blue from holding your breath but still cheering her on, then on the last 10 yards, she surges and wins by a nose hair.  You wake up 30 minutes later from passing out and realize that it was true. She did win back 2 back BC Classics.  You go to your car, drive to your favorite coffee place and enjoy a cappuccino.

09 Sep 2010 10:59 PM
Steve Haskin

Between now and the Breeders' Cup I will assuredly be writing about other horses in relation to the Classic, and I hope they all do not become about Zenyatta. Trust me, I will be writing about her, and expect that to be about her, just as I expected this to be about Gio Ponti. These are Countdown to the Cup columns that I have allowed to be linked to my blog. They normally are not, so let's all try to stick to the subject.

09 Sep 2010 11:00 PM
John T

I could not agree with you more Steve,this article was supposed to be about Gio Ponti.How on earth did Zenyatta creep into the conversation?

As Zookeeper so kindly asked me to

I hope you don,t mind if I give an update on the second lifetime start

of Frankel at Doncaster on Friday.

09 Sep 2010 11:18 PM
Steve Haskin

John T., no problem. Go right ahead.

09 Sep 2010 11:26 PM
Woodswoman

Great suggestion, Steve. I think Gio Ponti would add to what looks like a classy field. It would be great to see how he does on the dirt.

10 Sep 2010 12:03 AM
Zookeeper

John T.,

Looking forward to it.

Mr. Haskin,

It doesn't matter what the subject is, we always end up in the same spot. And I imagine it will continue way past the BC. I don't think it can be helped. It has become a mania, in the true sense of the word. I suffer from it as much as everybody else, but I have bored myself to death on the subject.

To answer your earlier question: I have been following the sport since the 1999 Kentucky Derby and although I'm a "newbie" compared to some on here, one thing I know for sure is that NOTHING is a lock in horseracing.

10 Sep 2010 12:06 AM
Dakota

Mr. Haskin: How did a blog about Gio turn into a conversation about Zenyatta?  Umm, because YOU asked John if Gio only had to make up one length on her. I meant no disrespect to either you (love your columns & insight) or Gio Ponti (who I loudly cheer for when he runs). Yes, I hijacked your question to John. I'm sorry. But as for my science lesson....Gio appeared to be giving his best effort, Zenyatta (to me) did not. So if he improves a bit, assuming she is as good as she was last year, she should still be able to beat him. Of course there are no guarantees in horse racing. She may not do as well on dirt as expected. She may be a step slower than last year. She or Mike (hard to tell who's really calling the shots on that team) might misjudge the pace and/or the competition. She might (horrors!) lose. She might make history again.  Don't you have the greatest job in the world? Isn't this the most exciting and fascinating sport?

10 Sep 2010 12:33 AM
jayjay

My bad, Steve, I was responding to Rita.

As for Gio Ponti, I probably would play him if he does go to the Classic.  I guess the deeper surface at CD would help him, but can he overcome Blame or Zenyatta ?  I don't know.  I think Blame is shaping up to be a monster for the Classic and he's the only one I'm really worried about.  GP would be a really nice price though, with his record this year, he'd probably go off at 6 to 1 or higher.  I don't know if it's just bad luck the way his races this year went but I don't think he is a wash out.  This article kind of threw me off though because I've always looked at GP as a pure grass horse but now, I have to think about him.  Only because you have that magic article touch, can't just throw away a grass horse in the Classic once you write about him hehe.

Zenyatta may have only beat him by a length but as many experts have said, they all believe that Z prefers the dirt over the synthetics so hopefully he can hit the board behind my Z :)

I wouldn't mind if his connections doesn't point him to the Classic  though, only because it's horses like him (the "unexpected"), that seems to show up in the big races.  At this point, I don't think GP is expected to make any noise in the Classic simply because the focus is on the top 3.

10 Sep 2010 1:05 AM
Livesoutwest

Steve,

Just speaking for myself, I never claimed Zenyatta was a lock to win the Classic. Quality Road, Blame, Lookin At Lucky and unheralded Musket Man are all contenders.  Rachel Alexandra could win in the slop, at a price. Mine That Bird would be no shock to me in the slop at a HUGE price. Sidney's Candy could even pull a surprise if he ran there and was the lone speed.

I merely claimed Zenyatta was a lock to beat Gio Ponti.  Last year the BC was held on Pro Ride, which is the most friendly surface to turf horses in the world.  Despite a gutsy effort which beat the rest of the field, Zenyatta ran past GP like he was standing still.  On a dry dirt track, she will blow his doors off, as will a few of the ones I mentioned.  I doubt he even cracks the superfecta.

Gio Ponti's only chance, as with Rachel Alexandra and MTB is if the track turns up sloppy, and he proves to be a slop freak like those two.  IMO, he's not well-bred to be a dirt horse, isn't fast enough to win the BC Mile and won't stay the mile and a half of the BC Turf.

Sorry Gio Ponti fans, but frankly, he's just not good enough to win a BC race.

10 Sep 2010 1:30 AM
Vince

no offence steve, but your response is pretty lame to say the least. like we don't have any late develepors in europe. unfair? don't be such a girl's blouse about it. once the triple crown is over, they should all compete together. get them all out there on the track, three year olds, fillies, all in the same race. nowhere to hide. it's good for the sport. zenyatta, an older filly. hope she beats em all in the bc. that would make history.  

10 Sep 2010 2:20 AM
gammyp6

At this moment in time it is Zenyattas world. Period. Steve, you may have started by talking about Gio Ponti but you had to know it would soon be " Gio who?"

10 Sep 2010 2:40 AM
sodapopkid

Steve,  Although, We will have a top class field of some incredible colts running in the BCC this year,  I have to ask you,   Are you hopng and praying Zenyatta beats the boys and wins the Classic?  

Another question?    Because of so many people wanting to see if she can beat the boys again,  Dont't you think she is going to be one of the sole reasons the Classic at CD is going to be so jam packed? I am looking for one hilacious turnout at CD.  

Give me your answers Steve,  But I think she is going to be the star attraction at CD.  I also believe she is going to be the one that everyone is rooting for.

10 Sep 2010 6:07 AM
Steve Haskin

Mary, you are correct about fan friendly. For BC, there are seats on the apron, so you couldnt stand down there as you normally would. There is general admission (not cheap) for you to just hang out in the worst, most cavernous and depressing-looking grandstand ever built (and if it's cold the wind just whips through there because its not fully enclosed) or battle the crowd around the paddock. If you dont wish to buy a seat I would suggest staying home.

10 Sep 2010 8:02 AM
Steve Haskin

Vince, a girl's blouse? I never heard that one before, but I like it, whatever it means. Name me one 3-year-old champion in Europe who didnt get good until July? I'm sure there are a few if you go back far enough, but that's my point. And as for my response being lame, sorry, it's all I could come up with.

Dakota, I didnt know an innocuous and factual comment like that would be refuted by science :). And yes, I do have the greatest job in the world.

Sodapopkid, there is a difference between hoping and praying. As a journalist covering the race I have to keep some kind of objectivity and look for a good story wherever it is. And I happen to be a fan of Quality Road and Blame. But, yes, I would love to see Zenyatta win and make history. You always want to feel as if you're part of something historic. I was going nuts just like everyone else at Santa Anita last year. I am a fan before I'm a journalist. Writing a column about Gio Ponti running in the Classic doesnt mean I'm rooting for him. I just thought it would be an intriguing spot for him and would make for an interesting conversation.

10 Sep 2010 8:14 AM
KevinL

I am not sure about Gio Ponti on Dirt,I think that the attendence of the Europeans in the classic this year will be an indication of their thoughts on the transition of grass to syntheitc versus dirt. I agree with Vince in that after the Dubai trip maybe Gio could have visited Europe for a while. He has run in the Breeder's Cup for a couple years, maybe a campaign on the Grass oversees would have been productive. I hate "been ther, done that" campaigns. Easy for me to say, I don't have to pay the bills or worry about horses on two continents. Gio Ponti has had an outstanding career and is the type of horse I like, he may not win every time, but he will be involved and he runs against the best in the best races and goes wherevcer he has to do it. Classic, Mile, Turf, whatever, he will need to be looked at in the Ex-tri if you eliminate him from consideration for the Win.

10 Sep 2010 8:48 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

It seems to me that back in 1973 before The Belmont when Steve did an article about Sham on his blog, we were asked to not talk about Secretariat but we did anyway because we were caught up in an astonishing moment in time that would never be there again, basking in the glory of a truly amazing champion and a glorious feat, of an astonishing creature with four feet.

10 Sep 2010 9:45 AM
Slew

I guess this means I shouldn't bring up Dallas?  But the "Who dat" nation got thrilled last night...again.

I don't believe anything is a lock in any race.  Everytime Zen enters a gate, I simply hope and pray she comes home safely, win, lose or draw. I'm still wondering which Euros will enter the Classic.  I believe they may be more dangerous than Gio Ponti, but I still expect Gio to be in the top 4.  RVW had his problems last year, but he just finished behind Cape Blanco, and ahead of Twice Over, and the plans for Cape seem to be the Prix d'Arc and the BC.   Aidan O' Brien seems loaded with talent...again...this year.

10 Sep 2010 10:05 AM
Zookeeper

Runflatout update:

He is going to Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center for hyperbaric chamber treatment. This is to help his response to antibiotics and give his lungs  good doses of oxigen. After his treatments he will go to a ranch for a few weeks to insure that he fully recovers this time. He will be turned out in an outdoor pen each day and away from the track, he will be able to truly relax and get well.

I don't expect him to make his debut until late in the Oak Tree meet and maybe not until November. Since I don't make the decisions, I'm very grateful that the ones who do have his best interest in mind.

10 Sep 2010 10:07 AM
sodapopkid

I look for the Euro's to go mostly to the turf races.  

Exactly right, Steve!

10 Sep 2010 10:38 AM
LAZMANNICK

Zookeeper

Hang in there.  I'm sure your little one is going to be just fine.  Maybe this is fate's way of saying he's not quite ready to rock and roll just yet.  He'll be a lot further developed physically in Novemeber than he would have been at the beginning of September.  Just a thought.

10 Sep 2010 10:54 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper

  Thanks for the update !!! Whoever is making the decisions from ownership is doing a great job, along with Carla. Hopefully he can fully recover with no damage done. If he doesn't start until January, that's fine. He may need the extra time after this ordeal. I really think it's marvelous that he is going to the ranch. You are giving us insight into the benefits of group ownership. The horse doesn't have to be rushed back by a worried individual owner who wants to try to pay the bills. It's a very tough game to succeed in. I suspect that you put a lot of thought into your ownership decision. Congratulations on a job well done. I'm proud of you, and thank you very much for continuing the updates to us owners by proxy. I'm thoroughly enjoying this thoroughbred journey, that is from the beginning. Bloggership to Ownership in Ten Easy Lessons. Nice title, but it's not so easy is it?

10 Sep 2010 10:55 AM
Zookeeper

Now that I've had time to think about it, here's my thoughts about Gio Ponti and the BC: I would enter him in both Dirt and Turf Classics. If it rains, run him on dirt, the Euros are much better on soft turf and at 1 1/2 miles, the going would get really tiring for him. If there's no rain then go ahead and run him on firm turf, something he is used to and the Euros, not so much. The Turf Mile is too short for him and the presence of Goldikova is a big deterrent.

Poor Gio is up against it again this year. No matter where they decide to run him, he will give all he has, that's for sure.

Too bad there isn't a Turf race at 1 1/4 miles. So many American horses find the 1 1/2 miles beyond their capabilities. Any chance of an additional race, at a distance that is more suited to our horses, in the near future?

10 Sep 2010 10:58 AM
sunny farm

I saw GIO PONTI run in the B.C.Classic last year. ZENYATTA just beat him by a whisker.A very exciting race !!! GIO PONTI is QUITE the stallion & my faith in him remains strong. I hope he does run this year in the world event, and wish he and his connections the best of racing luck no matter where he runs.When his turn comes to go to the breeding shed,he will excell there as well. In the saddling barn at the B.C. 2009, HE was the stallion ZENYATTA gave her soft look to, very briefly, but I saw her look at GIO PONTI "That way''.To this day, I still think that GIO PONTI let ZENYATTA go to the lead, with he, setting himself up in the back view of her at the wire. I really enjoyed watching the horses ''talk together'' at the saddling barn and they do not just speak of the race, portray thier courage and dominance...they also speak of love .

You GO GIO !!!!!

10 Sep 2010 11:29 AM
Rachel O

I know this is supposed to be about Gio Ponti, and I love him and hope he runs in the BC, perhaps not the Classic this time;

BUT, can someone answer this question: (I'm still waiting for the answer to what happened to Mine That Bird in terms of injury in the BCC. Anybody know?)

10 Sep 2010 11:38 AM
Trebloc

Zookeeper,

Welcome to the world of ownership.  

Mr. Haskin,

Any word on Super Saver?

10 Sep 2010 11:43 AM
John T

Frankel won his second lifetime start at Doncaster on Friday by 13

lengths.His main competition was the Godolphin horse Farhh,but

unfortunately he acted up in the

gate and had to be withdrawn which was too bad as he had won his only

start at Newmarket by 6 lengths and

would have been a good yardstick

to judge Frankel,but nevertheless

he could not have been more impressive as he still had a lot of gears in reserve.

The Dewhurst Stakes has been ruled

out for him now and the acid test for him as a 2 year old will now be

the Racing Post Trophy back at this track or the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot.Both races are at one mile.

10 Sep 2010 12:24 PM
Will W

You make eminently good sense, Steve. A 1 1/2 in a full field replete with the best European turf horses poses a forbidding prospect for Gio Ponti and who really wants to see him in the Mile ? If the turf turns up a bog at Churchill as it was when Interpratation blew by him in the stretch at a 1 1/2, it will likely all be for nought. He has dirt in his breeding and Alydar in his broodmare's blood line so why not throw him into the Jockey Gold Cup with Blame and see how he takes to the dirt. He's handled multiple surfaces - why not dirt ? If he fizzles his connections just return him to the turf and he locks horns with the European turf horses in the Breeder's Cup turf. A no-brainer !

10 Sep 2010 1:12 PM
Zookeeper

John T,

Thank you for the update on Frankel. I'm so pleased that a colt named after one of our greatness horsemen is winning. Frankel, the man, did a lot of that himself. Do you think that maybe Bobby might have had something to do with Farhh losing it in the gate? lol!

Rachel O,

I may be wrong but, I think that Mine That Bird had a chip removed from his knee after last year's BC. That's why he was out of commission for so long.

sunny farm,

That had to be the longest whisker in the history of horseracing. :) I love your take on the mutual attraction between GP & Z. Very funny! and maybe very true!

10 Sep 2010 1:33 PM
TerriV

All these proclamations that Zenyatta will (of course) win the Classic, make me soooo nervous.  There's nothing like getting cocky to invite fate to trip you up.  A horse race is a horse race and any horse can get beat.  Zenyatta is not invincible even though she feels like she is.  I only wish, hope and pray that she remains unbeaten.  

Now, on to Gio Ponti...I'm not entirely convinced that dirt is his strength but I think Zookeeper's idea of entering him in both dirt and turf and waiting on the weather to decide is a really good idea.  I like Gio but there are other horses that I feel much more strongly about emotionally.  I love looking at the names of all the wonderous, talented horses that are going to be at the Breeder's Cup.  This event will be historic, I think.  So, even though the seats may not be the most comfortable - the chance to experience them all in the flesh is just too exciting to pass up.  I bought my tickets the day they started selling them.  Can't wait!!

10 Sep 2010 1:47 PM
Dakota

Rachel O,

I could not find anything indicating Mine That Bird came out of the BCC with an injury. From what I've read, after the BCC he was sent to the farm to "rest & recuperate", presumably from a long 3 year old campaign. Does anyone else know something different?

10 Sep 2010 1:54 PM
WinnahPickah

Mr. Haskin,

one length but miles apart. Watch the replay, Zenyatta's ears are all over the place and Gio Ponti's are pinned. To me, that is alot more than one length.

The only angle where I see her losing is if Blame runs with her from the gate to the wire.

That may be a bad idea. I don't think we've ever seen her pissed off.

10 Sep 2010 2:10 PM
an ole rail bird

thanks mr haskins, for keeping your finger on the pulse of the horse man on the backside. i could see a good excta coming out of a stechdual of gio ,qr, zen,& blame. what a horse race it would be to see a calvary chrage ,of that 4 ,down the lane. my only fear is the fact that zen has raced all easy races ,for so long. that she is only running as fast as nessesary to win. i have seen horses ,(of lesser class of course), after devolopeing this habit , that when hooked hard in a dual, they would start spitting up the bits &taking themselves out of it. certiainly hope this is not the the case this time. on a fast race track,& a pretty sun shiney day. that would be classic, of all classic. ya'll keep up the good work, y heer !  

10 Sep 2010 4:23 PM
Judy G ~ California

Steve ~ you wrote:

"But, yes, I would love to see Zenyatta win and make history. You always want to feel as if you're part of something historic. I was going nuts just like everyone else at Santa Anita last year. I am a fan before I'm a journalist."

Thank you for writing this! I went nuts with you! ;-) I can't believe it's been almost a year since I met you at Santa Anita.

10 Sep 2010 4:32 PM
Oldie

Very interesting thoughts on Gio Ponti.  I agree that running him in the JCGC would be a good way to ascertain whether the BCC is the place for him.  If there is no real notion of doing so, perhaps no BC race suits him and he has other options.  With the dirt in his pedigree and his individual talent on turf, his possibilities as a stallion are large.  It does seem testing him on dirt at classic distance again would be very useful.

10 Sep 2010 4:46 PM
dinkydiva

WinnahPickah...  Funny post, "we haven't seen her pissed off."  Now that I think about it, she normally is all by herself on the back and I think that maybe you're onto something here.  If a horse such as Blame is staying by her, she might just knock him out and get DQ'd.  Or, as someone else said about Gio's admoration (putting it nicely for you Steve), for Zen, she might stop and say, put on your dancing shoes and lets see what you have!  Can you entertain? Blame and Zen will be busy on the back stretch dancing and of course, Zen would be the leader. LOL

Steve, couldn't help myself!!

10 Sep 2010 6:47 PM
Rachel O

www.youtube.com/watch

Sorry, Steve, just couldn't help myself. Here's the one we can't stop talking about, talking up a storm at her yearling sale.

10 Sep 2010 8:15 PM
dinkydiva

Rachel O... I had never seen that.  Thanks.  She was a beauty and still is!!

10 Sep 2010 9:00 PM
txhorsefan

As usual I keep coming back to the blog to read the additional comments, then go watch some races in discussion on you-tube, come back to the blog to even more comments and by that time, I'm so far behind my comments are immaterial - lol!  Suffice it to say that this is another great article, Steve, and very interesting to entertain the ideas of the different BC races suitable for Gio Ponti.  Like many of you, I think the Turf and a mile and a half would be too much, but the Mile too short.  I like that option of entering both the BCC and the Turf and watch the weather.  He is a fun horse to watch and cheer for and I cracked up at the notion of him wooing Zenyatta.  

Zookeeper, thank you so much for the update on Runflatout and for sharing his story with all of us.  Like Steve said, it's a good thing to feel like you are a part of history and I think it's great to be experiencing the history your colt will make as we follow him.  Hyberbaric and turnout sounds like something that will be of great benefit.  We will be here waiting for him to debut whenever your group and his trainer feel he is finally ready.  Go Runflatout!!

Yes, Dr. Drunkinbum, I think Steve has always been such a stern taskmaster by not letting us go off on a tangent about Secretariat.  You have such a great way with words - thank you!

Terri V - how exciting to actually be going to the Breeders Cup.  I've thought about trying to talk my husband into it, but I think I'd be better off watching at home in comfort.  Of course, you'll be getting to experience it up close and first hand and...Zenyatta - wow!

Congratulations to Frankel for his second win.  Let's hope he continues in that.  To me, it's a feel good story all around.

Thank you, Steve, for another lively conversation.  Thank you bloggers for sharing your ideas and knowledge.  Thank you Rachel for that clip of Zenyatta's auction - I'd never seen that before.  

Celeste

txhorsefan

10 Sep 2010 9:33 PM
sherpa

Rachel O - I owe you!  Hadn't seen that YT video yet.  My gosh, when Jerry Moss said "she was an imposing filly" as a yearling, no kidding!  She was as big as a 2yo!  Maybe that's what scared other bidders off her, and she surely has been high-maintenance, but just look at where patience can get you.  WOW, just WOW! Thank you!

About Gio - has he ever run on dirt? I can't think of a time, but I have short-term memory issues ;-) If not, it would make sense to try him on it before the BCC, but the Gold Cup?  I realize anything less than a graded stakes might be "beneath" him, but that would be throwing him into a very contentious field.  If he likes dirt, I think there's a good chance he could beat even Blame; if not, pretty embarrassing for him.  On the other hand..

..oh dear, it's enough to make you feel like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof!  

10 Sep 2010 10:49 PM
GhostTown

Yes, can we please stop talking about Zenyatta unless the article is in direct relation to her.  And the trash talking, please I implore you all to stop.  I thought we, her fans would have had more class that that.  I am a HUGE fan of hers but the chest thumping and over exposure is getting old.  I am afraid she will become the Megan Fox of horse racing if this keeps up.  Beautiful to look at but could care less about her.  I would hate to see that happen but unfortunately I think the seed has already sprouted.

Mr. Haskin, I've said my peace so now back to Gio Ponti.  I didn't think that turf horses train exclusively on the turf because of the track not holding up to that much traffic, so if that is the case does he occasionally train on dirt and if so how does he handle it?  Or do they put the dogs out and train towards the outer rail?  I am looking forward to all of your pre Cup articles.  I truly enjoy all of the races and fanfare that accompany the Breeders Cup.  

10 Sep 2010 10:56 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

txhorsefan

  Thank you very much!!!! I've been thinking a lot lately about something you mentioned. Why is that we can't have more Breeder's Cup races at different distances that are run all over the country all through the year? Why do champion horses have to settle for running in a race that doesn't quite suit them? Are there not enough horses of championship caliber? I'd like to see them have a championship at seven furlongs on dirt for males and a mile and a quarter on turf, just to mention a few. Why isn't there a juvenile sprint? There is only six championship races on the first day. Why not have two days filled with championship races only, ten races per day? Good Golly Miss Molly, it's a crying shame !!!! If they just added the mile and a quarter turf for males, and a juvenile sprint I'd be happy. Why should the turf distance jump all the way from a mile to a mile and a half with nothing in between? Would they have any problem deciding for Gio Ponti if there was a mile and a quarter turf?

11 Sep 2010 1:36 AM
gammyp6

A thousand thanks Rachel O for Z's

sale video! I can't stop looking at her. And GhostTown-seriously? Megan Fox? Talk like that must be coming from a very disappointed RA fan.

11 Sep 2010 2:48 AM
sodapopkid

Rachel O,   How did you manage to find that video.  Thank you so much.  I love it when you all come across these video links and post them for us.     Zenyatta has so many video links , it would take forever to sift thru, Thats why its so special when you guys find them and post them.    

You know when you see her in that video,  she looks somewhat nervous,  That to me justifies what John Sherriffs says about taking care of her and training her , How she has good days and off days, How they have had to learn her ways,  as big as she is, I have to say, Thank goodness, John Sherriffs trains her and the Mosses own her.  She couldnt have been owned by people that would have just wanted to run her to death, she is big and has to have a special lifetstyle and patience.

Thankyou, Steve  I just wanted to comment on and thank Rachel O for her link on the mighty mare.

I won't tie up this blog with anymore on her considering it's about Gio.  Love him too.

I'm not partial,  I just love the closers more.  

11 Sep 2010 7:42 AM
Slew

Rachel O....MTB-I'm rather certain it was a bone chip as Zookeeper stated, but I cannot find an article that actually discusses it.

Zookeeper: Hoping for the best with Runflatout.

11 Sep 2010 9:07 AM
sherpa

ZK - Meant to comment last night but got distracted...

I applaud the decision to give Runflatout a treatment & break that will allow full recovery from his lung infection.  It was very worrisome when he had to scratch the second time.  He's a big guy, but he's still a baby who needs lots of tlc.   Whenever you have progress reports, please continue to share with us!

11 Sep 2010 12:14 PM
sodapopkid

'Congratulations'  to Ms. 18-0 connections for winning the National Owners Award.  

I'm a little confused Steve,  Did they (Mosses) just win it for California? or for Cali and over top of all of the nation's owners?    they have one listed for every state , but it says National,   I'm not thinking to good right now,  which is it Steve,   and why isnt JJ in there for owners?   Set me straight, Steve?

11 Sep 2010 12:14 PM
Sunny Farm

Hello Dinkydiva, Actually it was ZENYATTA who winked at GIO PONTI in the sadddling barn , not the other way around. If more people knew and could read the language of the horses, it would greatly improve thier races & thier game plan, and everything else pretaining to horses.People have always acted amazed when I tell them what is wrong with thier horses in just a brief introduction of that horse, but it is nothing more than knowing the language OF the equid.Un-like many people who can't stop talking, I stand quietly & listen to what the horse is saying.They do 'talk' and often. A stallions nature is to run in the back, GIO PONTI ran up very well until he met head to head with his ''new love'', ZENYATTA, only then did he concede to her....all very natural for GIO PONTI AND the mare. ZENYATTA has ''it going on'', a thing that intimidates many fine stallions, but the strongest, like GIO, rise to this challenge, like cream floating to the top of the milk bucket. Gio Ponti ran strong in the 2009 B.C. Classic, and he did , he hooked

up with ZENYATTA..... his mission accomplished....almost.His pinned ears said it all for me, he had ''won'' but it was all about the other stallions...his real competition, his pinned ears sending a warning.

WHAT a beauty he is , that GIO PONTI !!!

11 Sep 2010 12:40 PM
Freetex

Your analysis reminded me of Cigar.  He sure liked the dirt better.  Maybe its just the change Gio needs at this point.  

I believe he could be a big factor in the outcome of the Classic.

By the way, I am going to visit the great Cigar next week.  I haven't seen him for at least six years.  Hope to visit Funny Cide too.

Can anyone recommend a welcoming horse farm I could visit at this late date?

11 Sep 2010 3:40 PM
Meydan Rocks!

Does anyone know if Gio Ponti is named after the Italian gentleman who headed up the EU a few years ago?

11 Sep 2010 4:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Meydan Rocks!

   Gio Ponti was a famous Italian architect but I don't know for sure if the horse was named after him. As you so astutely pointed out, there is more than one Gio Ponti. Glad you'll be at The Breeder's Cup. It's great you saw Zen win last year's Classic in person. I saw it from my living room and still never saw anything so incredible. I haven't jumped that high since high school basketball many, many moons ago.  Have fun, it doesn't look like I can make it. Glad you could visit General Challenge. Thanks for responding to my response. How many lengths she'll be behind early depends on if Gio Ponti is entered in The Classic or not, and how she likes the track, how fast they think her last half mile will be. Gio Ponti the architect died in 1979.

11 Sep 2010 7:09 PM
Steve Haskin

Read in DRF today that Gio Ponti is under consideration for the Classic.

11 Sep 2010 7:59 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

Do you have ESP? Or have her connections read your column and said: Why not?

11 Sep 2010 8:47 PM
Will2

He had a bone chip removed from his ankle after the BCC.

Wayne commented about it and it was printed in the NY Daily News back shortly after he came to Wayne's barn. May 27th or 28th.

11 Sep 2010 8:50 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve

   Very interesting about Gio Ponti. I guess they read your column. Very intersting also is Super Saver's injury. Could explain everything since the Derby. It was quite puzzling how bad he raced don't you think, since he was so competitive prior to The Derby, and then winning the Derby. To fade so badly like he had been doing. I was puzzled. I think I might go to the hop tonight, then burgers and fries at the drive-in, then see the late horror movie double feature at the other drive-in. I Was a Teenage Werewolf with Michael Landon, and  The Blob with Steve McQueen. Crank up the ol' time machine and off we go. How much would you pay for a night like that, to go back in real time to 1958? Did you like the movie, Peggy Sue Got married?

11 Sep 2010 9:00 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Gio Ponti's breeding fees would sky rocket if he won The Classic. If he wins the Turf Mile I don't think it would make much difference. If he won The Classic at CD, Derby Fever would kick in and he would be a very popular boy indeed.

11 Sep 2010 9:08 PM
Rachel O

Maybe Gio's connections want to continue this flirtation between him and Z to see where it will lead. One length to make up for what...

11 Sep 2010 9:51 PM
ruffianruns

Steve -

I really like Gio and I see your points about distance.  Seems like the Classic distance would work best.  I would love to see him in the JCGC to see if he handles the dirt - that would be a challenge.

I pretty much agree with all your arguments for why Gio should try the Classic, except the argument about that length.  You are taking a fact from one surface and extending it to another surface and to another race, which is where it, too, becomes speculative, IMVHO.  If only horse racing was that linear.

Steve and Slew - All I can say is "The Catch" - one of my favorite moments in sports history!

John - I really don't see how this Classic field can be called "uninspiring."

Dr D - I still think Sham was the better of the two - he just lapped that other horse and was coming around again.

Zookeeper - Thanks for the RFO update!  Wow, it's amazing to me that any horse EVER makes it to the gate!  I guess it really is all about patience, patience, and then more patience.

John T - Thanks for the Frankel update.  Two for two, eh?

11 Sep 2010 10:42 PM
John

Steve,

I also read that in the DRF about Gion Ponti regarding the possibility of the Classic.

I guess if a race is worth $5 million it will always be under consideration.

PS - I wonder if they considered Zenyatta's latest workout going the last quarter in 23.60 on Friday...

11 Sep 2010 11:27 PM
jayjay

Mr. Haskin : Off the current topic of the BCC, but was wondering if you can do a write-up on the crop of 3 yr olds.  I'm curious about what's causing all the injuries.  Is it the surface?  Is it the breeding ? Combination of both ?  The sport already has enough problems financially but I think the durabilities of our 3 yr old has a big impact on the future of horse racing.  Also, it seems that most of the injuries are with the colts, unless we don't hear about the injuries on the fillies which I doubt.  It's just disturbing, I hate seeing these young horses getting hurt early in their career and then they go straight to breeding if they survive the injuries.  It's the type of thing that makes me the think our future young horses will never have durability and longevity.  This year alone, we lost Odyssey, Eskendereya, Super Saver, Drosselmeyer and some others that are not as high profile.

Hopefully you can find some time after the BCC to look into this matter as it's pretty disturbing.

12 Sep 2010 2:07 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

jayjay

  I don't think we want to go there, with negative pure speculation, but don't you think that some of it is pure chance that there seem to be more high profile Derby trail horses injured the last few years? I don't think the overall percentage for all 3yo's has changed, but I'm not sure. Let's just hope that 2011 will be better. We know that everyone is doing their best now with maintaining surfaces, drug testing, and good nutrition, and doing all possible to move forward toward better health and safety. Certainly if there is a specific casue thatt needs to be addressed then I believe we should address it.

12 Sep 2010 10:48 AM
kathleen o

IMO it's the breeding jayjay.  They race them young, retire them young, and never really see what structural issue they may have...ie bad feet produces bad feet, etc.  They're in such a hurry to get them to market that there's no telling what substances they're given to increase maturity rate and size.  They're in such a hurry to get them to the track that there's no way of knowing if stress fractures are due to over training or bad genes.

12 Sep 2010 11:56 AM
kathleen o

Thank you Rachel O for the link to Zen's yearling auction.  Brought to mind the song....There was no telling what was to be, the day they sold hip # 703....

Sorry Steve, didn't mean to stray.  I really like Gio, but I would be surprised if his connections try the Classic again with Zen and Blame both in the race.

12 Sep 2010 12:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

ruffianruns

  I concur. Glad you get to laugh so much !!! What about when you watch the 73 Belmont, what happens? "And The Oscar for best original comedy goes to ......."

12 Sep 2010 12:47 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

ruffianruns

  I used to watch "The Catch" over, and over, and over, and never believed it. Slew's only seen it once. The 90's got her over it though, I think. My brother was at the game, invited by a friend. I was so mad I didn't get to go. I think the Red Sox winning four straight to beat the Yankees was about as satisfying as it gets, but nothing would beat this year's Classic. Nothing. And I mean nothing.

12 Sep 2010 12:54 PM
John

ruffianruns,

..."uninspiring..." - just my take on things as they now stand because of how the year has panned out thus far.

I just got a feeling, that unless Blame has one heck of a JCGC, that all eyes and interests will be on Zenyatta only in the Classic which might comprise, as of now, a dull field.  

Most of racing's talent might be in the Turf Mile or Turf (Classic) such as Workforce, Canford Cliffs, Cape Blanco, Goldikova, Makfi, Paco Boy in addition to Twice Over and Rip Van Winkle thus making these races alot more competitive and exciting.

12 Sep 2010 1:06 PM
Meydan Rocks!

Steve,

One of my favorite movie characters of all time is Keyser Soze.

You called it on Gio Ponti.

My question is…

Are you the hand behind the hand?

Dr D,

Thanks for pointing out the “original” Gio Ponti!  I’m going to guess that he is the inspiration for the equine version.  I think Steve hit it on the nail about the Gio scenario in the BCC.  

Do you know if anyone has studied Gio Ponti’s pedigree and whether they will be a good match, breeding wise?

NOTE: A tad of topic without incurring any wrath…

Re: Zenyatta. I know some sort of history is being made but I can’t quite put it in perspective. It’s a little weird for me.

I was definitely fortunate to see her race in the BCC. I was actually apprehensive because I just knew there was NO WAY she would make up all those lengths.   I think I walked out to the paddock in the back and came back again wondering why I just did that!

And a little further of topic….

Yes, General Challenge is still going strong. He has a small knee issue I am told but boy does he charge around that paddock of his.  He’s still skittish and the whites of his eyes don’t flash as much these days.  He is right next to Dramatic Gold who still thinks he’s a working racehorse. Talk about slashing and dashing up and down his fence and then whipping around and charging diagonally across again. General shadows Dramatic from his side of the fence and makes sure to follow his moves.  Interesting herd behavior I thought.  I tried to get Dramatic to sniff my hand but he turned his back on me. General was nice and stood still for a bunch of photos with me.

Last year, during the run up to the Kentucky Derby, I was at Santa Anita to see Z race.  I like to hang out in the paddock between races. You never know who you’ll meet hanging back there.

On this particular day, General Challenge’s former groom (I think his last name is Luna) escorted a strikingly handsome dark bay horse from the saddling area towards the walking ring. Boy that colt’s coat glistened and glinted in the California sun as he pranced and rippled with muscles! I wondered which horse that was,… and then I saw Bob Baffert walk out from the saddling area.

I’m used to seeing Bob looking casual and ready to smile and wave. This time, his eyes were focused on the horse like I had never seen before. His hands were tucked deep in his jeans pockets and his eyes were zeroed in on the horse as Luna walked it around the ring once. I figured this had been a schooling session for the young colt.

Something also told me that this was a rare moment where a world-class thoroughbred trainer was at work. I have never seen Bob Baffert look so focused. To my eye, the horse obviously looked healthy was prancing in anticipation. The sounds ands smells of race day must have been familiar to the colt.

As I stood watching Bob studying the colt, I knew for sure there were cues that he was reading like a book.   I would have paid good money to read his thoughts and listen to what he was assessing from the horse flesh (so to speak)! He never took his eyes of the horse and followed them towards the barn area.   The ring area was deserted and so I wasn’t able to immediately find out which colt that was.

I normally would have said “hi” to Bob, but this time I shut my mouth and just watched.   And then it clicked. That was Pioneer of the Nile. Some local race trackers who happened to be passing through later confirmed this fact.  

There is something about that whole sequence fascinates me.  That was the “other” Bob I had just witnessed.

12 Sep 2010 4:12 PM
Old Timer

Steve I agree that you raise a valid (and very interesting)question, i.e. Gio is not at his best for 1 1/2 miles. So the B. C. Turf seems wrong for him. He appears to be versatile on various surfaces. Plus, other than Zenyatta, it does not appear to be a strong race.  Quality Road has some serious questions at 1 1/4 miles.

Why not the Classic. Plus, hello, it is MO' MONEY!

I hope that they go for it.  If not, I see him better suited for the Mile than the 1 1/2 mile distance.

12 Sep 2010 4:26 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Meydan Rocks!

  Great story about Baffert and Pioneerof. Thanks for sharing that.

12 Sep 2010 5:32 PM
Vince

nice reply steve. didn't want to offend at all. girl's blouse is a really harmless phrase, just means, well, wimp or tart. not you but the idea that 3-y-olds can't go against the older horses. or that filies can't go against the colts. as for naming one horse that starts in may in europe and goes on to october, there are plenty. sea the stars, henrythenavigator, user friendly, there are loads of em. the idea you are advocating that horses need a mid-summer break or start late is very french. this haskin name, was it "asquin" originally then anglicised. french? now that is a proper insult.  

12 Sep 2010 6:07 PM
jayjay

ZooKeeper : That's probably the best news you can tell us other than he's entered in a race.  I'm happy that they are taking care of the horse.  Yes, it's an investment but I doubt very much if the owners and the trainers has not felt closeness to the colt specially after going through the roller coaster ride of entering and scratching.  I'm very confident that this horse will get its all when the time comes and both you owners and the horse will have a great time.  Thanks for the update and looking forward to seeing him runflatoutwithablowoutatridiculousodds in November.  Give Carla a flying kiss from me, you don't have to tell her who it's from, all she needs to do is catch it. :)

12 Sep 2010 6:37 PM
ruffianruns

Dr D - LOL!  When I watch the '73 Belmont, I cry over Count Fleet's broken record.

Dr D - Snark!  "The Catch" is just a thing of pUrE bEaUtY.  I can't believe your brother was THERE.  Most Cowboy fans I meet, that's all I say, and they turn green, and then they try to hit me.  I was surrounded by Dallas fans, and I was the only one rooting for the Niners.  They had been ganging up on me all day.  When Clark sailed through the air and caught it, I was jumping up and down, over and over.  As my head approached the ceiling with each jump, I can remember looking down at the devastated Cowboy fans beneath me, laid flat, all staring at the replay.  It's really a wonder that they didn't take me out right there.  Leaving my reverie, I also lOvEd the Sox winning four straight.  That was a miracle of miracles and one of the most stressfull experiences of my life!  Kinda like watching each quarter of last year's Classic EVERY OTHER DAY!  Zenyatta's Classic this year?  Oh, I can't handle it!

John - I get you.  I was hoping QR would blow everyone away in the Woodward in the most dominating performance ever.  I still hope Blame will do that in the JCGC, with Rail Trip and Gio up close.  Who knows.  I still wouldn't call the Classic field uninspiring, cause I think QR will like that track much better.  And Blame has won there.  I'm looking forward to the Euros too.  I think Rip and Twice Over are pointed to the Classic, but I'm not completely sure.

Meydan Rocks - Keyser Soze!  I've got to watch that again.  Thanks for the POTN story!  Chills.

I hope you all can answer jayjay's question about three-year-olds going down.  Sounds like kathleen o has some answers.

Go Nadal!  Tomorrow!

12 Sep 2010 6:55 PM
Slew

"The Catch" eh?  A pox on all.  Although I must say, when I gauge all athletes, I give points for grace, athleticism. skill, and raw courage (yes, Zen's ranks high for all).  Being all Blue and Silver to the core, and a devoted Cowboy fan, my top ranking quarterback is still Joe Montana;  receiver..

Jerry Rice...punter...Ray Guy.  Whatever...I believe in giving credit where credit is due (except to Pittsburgh...and don't tell me they have one more Super Bowl ring than Dallas. We'll get another ring this year).

I think Gio Ponti will easily handle the dirt...and he does set up an interesting challenge for the queen.  I'm glad he's going into the Classic.  Steve..I think you got Clement stirred up.

13 Sep 2010 6:07 PM
jayjay

Steve : If GP does win the Classic, how do you think the voting for HOTY will go between the 3 of them : Blame, QR and GP ?

It would make for an interesting voting.

13 Sep 2010 8:57 PM
Lucy

  I like Gio Ponti.  He is such a hard-trying horse and I do think putting him in the Classic is a great idea.  

  I will be cheering for Zenyatta, who has stolen my heart from the favorite of my youth: Seattle Slew.  Zenyatta is a formidable mare, and I do think she toys with her competition BUT, even Secretariat lost races, so there is no reason a good horse such as Gio Ponte could not get up to win.  I will be unhappy if she is defeated...I am not sure I will even be able to watch the race!

14 Sep 2010 4:02 PM
LaurieK

Yes, Gio Ponti has a length to make up on Zenyatta.  And when and if he accomplishes that, there will be several more where that came from.  She was much the best in the Classic that day, and went by him like he was standing still.  That said, he's got a better chance in the Classic (albeit slim to none) than he does in the Mile against Goldikova or the Turf against whatever monster the Euros ship over for some easy money this year.  

14 Sep 2010 5:19 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Slew

  I agree with Ray Guy and Joe Montana. Reciever is a tossup. Can you explain to me why the major game changer Ray Guy isn't in the Hall of Fame? They say Gio is probably going in the turf mile. What is wrong with a dirt prep so they can determine if he could run in The Classic. They could be missing a golden opportunity.

14 Sep 2010 9:14 PM
ruffianruns

Slew - Just wanted to thank you for being such a good sport!  Can't believe that Montana and Rice are your top ranked.  Your Cowboys have also had some great players over the years.  Even though I love Rice, Drew Pearson was another one of my favorite wide receivers - well after I stopped hating him!  I can't count the number of game winning catches Mr. Clutch made!

14 Sep 2010 9:41 PM
Slew

DR D.  Ray Guy reminded me of Baryshnikov or Nureyev...but he had his competition in form of the second best punter in the league back then...none other than the Dallas QB AND Punter, Danny White.  I think Staubach was big D's best QB, (saw the Army-Navy game where he was spectacular) but my heart always belonged to #41, Charlie Waters...and Terence Newman has been doing that number proud the past few years.  (Dallas never did retire #'s.) Now, for another year, Dallas..with the best players in the league...are simply not fulfilling their potential.  I hope they bring it all together finally. As far as Receivers, Dallas had some great ones (Hayes, Hill, Pearson, Irvin), but Rice had magic hands.  There was a young boy born in Dallas, raised in Dallas, schooled in Dallas, who wasn't picked up by the cowboys because they acquired E Smith.  The kid was Barry Sanders.  Imagine what he could have done if he had a real team to play for.  RB's I liked Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and Tony Dorsett.  (and the best dimples in the NFL belong to Demarcus Ware).

Back to horses...I really want to see Gio in the Classic again, because I want to see Goldikova  pull a hat trick in the BC turf Mile to top off her career.

15 Sep 2010 12:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Slew

  Gayle Sayers was my favorite running back. Staubach was great, you're best QB. I really liked Bob Hayes. I actually liked the entire 60's Cowboys team. Meredith etc. Emmit Smith was great, I didn't care for the rest of that team. I've been a 49er's fan since the 50's. Bummer when Barry Sanders retired. He was great. I really liked Earl Campbell. Walter Payton was super tough. I like Fred Bilitnekoff, and Raymond Berry. Still hoping Gio goes in The Classic. I guess he could win the mile, but it would shock me. His best hope is dirt. Do you go to the Fair Grounds much?

15 Sep 2010 11:39 PM
Old Yeller

STEVE ! When everyone of us is born we have a little crease on our upper lip. Our mother's would put their finger on it and say hush dear, we must not wake anyone.Never mind at 12 to 1 , or better! LOL. Leave it to you to not forget the superstar who is out of the limelight right now because he has been nipped the last few times out !  Gio Ponti is a very serious horse, I think he should be given another crack at the Classic regardless of the surface, he darn near had it last year and he got beat by the Queen, who isn't backing down because the big one is on dirt this year! Why should he! He's Gio Ponti, multible grade one winner, American throughbreed RACEHORSE ! Too quote a recent comment made on one of Steve's recent article's, CDNKOWBOY. His dad said, If you never stand up, you'll never have to worry about falling on your ass ! Don't think Gio Ponti would be worried about standing up AGAIN! He's a CHAMPION, he's been there !  

15 Sep 2010 11:50 PM
PICK6MAN

LOVE CHURCHILL DOWNS 4 DERBYS AND THIS WILL BE MY SECOND BREEDERS CUP.  I SAY SPEND THE AND GET A GOOD SEAT YOU WONT REGRET IT. THEN YOU CAN SEE BLAME GET BLAMED FOR UPSETTING ZENYATTA.

16 Sep 2010 12:28 AM
Slew

Dr D:  I remember the RB for Dallas in the 60's was Don Perkins with Don Meredith as QB.  I remember Too Tall Ed Jones, and DD Lewis, but Charlie Waters was fantastic.  I wonder why they have Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth for Dallas games, when the "Moose" is so much better in broadcasting.  What an awesome player he was.  Witten is doing a pretty fair job in the same position.  My daughter lives in New Orleans, but I (alas and alack) do not.  Some day...  Did almost go up to Saratoga this summer for the Travers but ran into some complications...(like getting in and out of my son's low slung sports car...geez louise...you've got to practically do the limbo to sit in it!) I do usually stay on top of the races and works at the Fairgrounds however, whenever I can.  A friend of mine used to drive the bus for the Chi Bears, and said Walter Payton was always kind and always a gentleman.  And what a player!  And who could ever forget Sayers and Piccolo!

Ruffianruns...you know, to me it's more than the stats.  It's the way a player moves with so much agility and grace.  And watching Montana and Rice was like watching a ballet..even though I was booing them at every opportunity...

..especially that "Catch".  But the early 60's, before there was ever a Super Bowl, Dallas could never get past Lombardi to the NFL Championship....then it was the Vikings...and finally it took us 10 years, but we got our first Super Bowl ring....and last year, I was overjoyed for the Saints...

(the city needed that)

because I knew Dallas could beat them (and apparently they picked up a few tricks from us during that game because they used the same strategy against the Colts).  

16 Sep 2010 4:24 PM
jhorse

The list of horses that have "only a length to make up on Zenyatta" is long.

The number of horses that have made up that length is ZERO.

16 Sep 2010 6:10 PM
Bellwether

SUN E FARM...PONTI HOOK$ HER N THE CLA$$IC...THEN HE HOOK$ HER N THE SACK!!!...WE LOVE EM BOTH!!!...

17 Sep 2010 3:31 AM
Christine C

I'm not so sure Gio just needed a "length" to beat Zenyatta.  Zenyatta is a very smart horse.  She knows where the finish line is.  She has heart, amazing ability and smarts.  Tough to beat that.  It is said time and again that once Zenyatta knows she won the race, she's done.  Mission accomplished.  If Gio and Zenny had to battle further, I believe Zenny still would have prevailed.

20 Sep 2010 4:07 PM
Monty

Gio Ponti is the real deal and is worthy of another try in the Classic.However, I think what a lot of people are not realizing is, "Zenyatta" will also be better on real dirt and even faster, with out a doubt, so don't forget about that. What worries me is the mud, cold and sloppy track, if weather ruins the Classic, it can also do in the "Queen" ! She is not use to either situation, I'll be very concerned, other than that she is by far the best horse out there !!!

28 Sep 2010 1:49 PM

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