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Gio Ponti Regains Winning Thread

Last year Gio Ponti put together a four-race win streak – all in grade I events – from spring through summer, that stamped him as one of the best around. Since then, however, the now five-year-old has been on a more frustrating streak. He ended the year with seconds in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. I) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), and garnered awards as Champion Turf Horse and Champion Older Male. However, the losing streak stretched to five this year with a second in the Tampa Bay Stakes, a fourth in the Dubai World Cup (gr. I), and a second in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. I). However, he snapped the string this weekend in the Man o’War Stakes (gr. I), coming from off a slow early pace to score by ½ length, notching his fifth win at the highest level.

Gio Pointi might be regarded as a somewhat atypical son of his sire, Tale of the Cat (TrueNicks,SRO), who has been a very consistent and solid sire, but was perhaps the fastest runner sired by Storm Cat, and who has generally been regarded as primarily an influence for speed and precocity (he was Leading Sire of Two-Year-Olds in 2003). That’s actually possibly doing him a little bit of a disservice, as his three best U.S. colts, Gio Ponti, Lion Heart (winner of the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I)) and Tale of Ekati (Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I)) have all captured grade I events at nine furlongs or more.

There is some stamina in the distaff side of this pedigree, as Gio Ponti (TrueNicks A+) is out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs (dam of other stakes winners Fisher Pond and Bon Jovi Girl). The second dam, Salt Spring (by Tom Rolfe’s son, Salt Marsh) was bred in Argentina. She won the Gran Premio Copa de Plata (gr. I) in that country, and was also a graded winner and grade I-placed in California. She never produced a stakes winner, but is granddam of three other graded winners, including Donn Handicap (gr. I) victor Mongoose. Her third dam is a half sister to Gold Sun, the granddam of Cigar. The family goes back to Sainfoin, English Derby winner and sire of Rock Sand (best known in the U.S. as broodmare sire of Man’o War, so neatly tying into Gio Ponti’s back-to-back wins in the race named for “Big Red.”

The Storm Cat/Alydar cross that produced Gio Ponti has been a very successful one with three other grade I winners, and with Tale of the Cat gives the similarly-bred Mr. Prospector and Alydar 3 x 2.

Another horse who had a long search end at the weekend was Awesome Gem, who took the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I). The seven-year-old son of Awesome Again (TrueNicks,SRO) had won a pair of graded stakes and run third in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), earning over $1,900,000 going into Saturday’s race, but this was his first grade I win. Awesome Again has generally not been outstanding with Mr. Prospector line mares, but what is somewhat interesting here is that his second dam, stakes winner Prime Prospector, is a Mr. Prospector/Olden Times (by Relic, by War Relic) cross, where Awesome Gem’s broodmare sire, Pentelicus, is a Mr. Prospector/In Reality (by Intentionally, by Intent, by War Relic, and inbred to War Relic) cross. In tail female Awesome Gem goes back to a sister to Mr. Prospector’s broodmare sire, Nashua, and this is a branch of the family that has also produced Louis Quatorze, Royal Indy, and Wildcat Heir (TrueNicks,SRO) (out of a three-parts-sister to the dam of Awesome Gem). Incidentally, Awesome Gem’s dam, Piano, was a recommended purchase a couple of years ago for Pedigree Consultants client Jim Scatuorchio, and she now has a colt foal for him by Scat Daddy (TrueNicks,SRO).

Gio Ponti and Awesome Gem are both long-winded runners, but a lot of the focus this weekend was on speed, that being the virtue headlining Calder’s “Summit of Speed.” The grade I event on the card, the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) went to Jessica is Back (TrueNicks A++). She is by Put It Back (by Honour and Glory), a horse who has done a great job from limited initial opportunities in Florida, also getting grade I winner In Summation, and other Northern Hemisphere graded winners Smokey Stover, Black Bar Spin, and Hey Byrn (he’s also done very well with his Southern Hemisphere crops in Brazil). Jessica Is Back is out of a mare by Jolie’s Halo, and this is one very clear example of a nick that works as Put it Back has four stakes winners from eight starters out of Jolie’s Halo mares. This mating has a double of The Axe II (one through Put it Back), and this was a strain that always liked Halo, benefitting from Mahmoud and Blue Larkspur in their mutual backgrounds.

For older males, the Calder meet featured the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II), and this went to Big Drama, by another Florida stalwart, Montbrook (by Buckaroo, by Buckpasser). Rated B+ by TrueNicks, he is out of a mare by Notebook, and while this cross has produced only one other stakes winner, that one is Outofthebox, one of two other grade I winners for the sire.

In the Carry Back Stakes (gr. II),favored D ’Funnybone (by D'wildcat (TrueNicks,SRO)) was upset by Coffee Boy, who rallied late along the rail for the victory. He’s by Yonaguska (by Cherokee Run), who was another smart capture by Turkey in the same intake as Lion Heart. Rated A++ by TrueNicks, he’s out of a mare by Unbridled's Song (TrueNicks,SRO) (so another Blushing Groom/Fappiano cross, albeit fairly distantly), and is the second stakes winner for the sire out of a Fappiano line mare. Like Jessica is Back, he also has a double of The Axe II and a cross of Halo (along with a half sister to Halo through Cannonade). He also has Mr. Prospector 4 x 5.

Faster than the older fillies and mares, and the three-year-old colts, and less than a couple of tenths behind the older males was the three-year-old filly Pica Slew in the Azelea Stakes (gr. III). She’s from the same Buckaroo line as Big Drama, but through Spend a Buck and Pico Central (she’s from his first crop, but he was exported to Korea before he ever had runners). Bred on a Pedigree Consultants recommended mating, Pica Slew is one of three stakes winners from the first crop raised at Sienna Farm, which is located in Belleview, just outside Ocala, Florida. Pica Slew is out of the Seattle Slew mare Maggie O’Slew and so has double La Troienne in both Buckaroo and Seattle Slew, and a cross of La Troienne’s classic-winning three-parts-sister Adargatis in Spend a Buck. We can note that Pico Central’s broodmare sire, Purple Mountain, is one of a slew of good runners by Grey Dawn II from the Shy Dancer family, and that Seattle Slew worked well with the Grey Dawn/Shy Dancer combination.

Staying with speedsters for the moment, E Z’s Gentleman (TrueNicks A++) gained a grade I win when defeating stable companion Sangaree (Awesome Again half brother to Congaree (TrueNicks,SRO), who was bidding to give his sire a weekend grade I double at either end of the distance spectrum). E Z’s Gentleman is the first graded winner for his sire, Yankee Gentleman, a very fast son of Storm Cat who started in Kentucky (E Z’s Gentleman is from his first crop), but is now at Le Mesa Stallions in Louisiana. E Z’s Gentleman is one of seven stakes winners from only 50 starters (14% stakes winners to starters) sired by sons of Storm Cat out of mares by Distinctive Pro (by Mr. Prospector).

Going back to more classic distances, in the Delaware Oaks (gr. II), Blind Luck delivered one of her patented last-stride wins to deny Havre de Grace (from the only crop of the ill-fated Saint Liam). We’ve covered this pedigree in detail before, but just to recap, Blind Luck (TrueNicks A) is from the first crop of the Carson City horse Pollard’s Vision, whose third dam is Nijinsky Star (by Nijinsky II out of Chris Evert). Blind Luck is out of a mare by Best of Luck (by Broad Brush), whose own broodmare sire is Chief’s Crown(by a son of Northern Dancer out of a daughter of Chris Evert, and so bred very similarly to Nijinsky Star).

A stakes winner who hasn’t made a foray into graded company yet, but who almost certainly soon will (maybe as soon as the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I)) is Trappe Shot, who took his record to four wins in five starts in the Long Branch Stakes. Rated A+ by TrueNicks, Trappe Shot is by Tapit (TrueNicks,SRO) out of Shopping by Private Account. He is half brother to the grade I-winning Deputy Minister mare Miss Shop, and to stakes winners Bought in Dixie and Shop Again. There is a lot of concentrated La Troienne here, with the dams of Seattle Slew and Private Account both being inbred to that mare, as is Trappe Shot’s own third dam, the Phipps tap-root Lady Be Good.

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