Gio Ponti, just how good was he, really?

Gio Ponti, just how good was he, really?

Gio Ponti, just how good was he, really?

Gio Ponti was the most dominant turf horse in recent US history. But just how good was he really?

Pictured: Gio Ponti winning the 2009 Arlington Million G1 over 10 furlongs (2000 metres) – one of his four consecutive Grade 1 victories that year.

A VERY EXCLUSIVE CLUB

He won 7 Grade 1 races – all on turf – and well over $US6 million in earnings making him the leading all-time stakes earner from the famous Storm Cat sireline. In the process he annexed 3 US Eclipse Awards for end of season Championship honours. Consider that before Gio Ponti there were only 13 stallions who retired to stud after capturing at least three Eclipse Award Titles. The list is a veritable Who’s Who of the great colts that have graced the racetracks of America:

| Secretariat | Buckpasser | Dr Fager |

| Affirmed | Seattle Slew | Cigar |

| Spectacular Bid | Ack Ack | Arts and Letters |

| Damascus | Tiznow | Skip Away |

| Curlin |

Of this elite group the nine oldest stallions have sired an astonishing 527 stakeswinners, an average of more than 58 stakeswinners per sire. Cigar proved infertile and the last-named trio are still at stud, with Tiznow and Skip Away having sired 37 & 20 stakeswinners respectively to date, while Curlin’s oldest are juveniles of 2012.

Stud success is never guaranteed by racetrack honours, but the ability to secure three or more Eclipse Awards seems the closest thing to future job security for top racing colts.

The members of this honour roll have something else in common. Not one of them has ever made it to our shores. Arrowfield Stud is about to change all that with the arrival this coming spring of Gio Ponti.

ONE OF HISTORY’S BEST AMERICAN TURF PERFORMERS

A winner of no fewer than 11 stakes races, including 7 Grade One turf contests from coast to coast in the USA, Gio Ponti was a model of rare class, soundness and consistency. All but one of his 29 career outings were in black type events, yet he failed to earn a cheque only twice.

Furthermore, Gio Ponti won or placed in 15 of the 19 Grade One events he contested, earning over US$6.1 million in the process. He was crowned US Champion Older Male in 2009 and US Champion Turf Male in both 2009 and 2010. Gio Ponti’s victories included successes in such prestigious events as the Keeneland Turf Mile (twice), the Man O’War Stakes (twice) and the Arlington Million, while runner-up efforts to Zenyatta in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic and to Goldikova in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Mile were equally meritorious.

It’s a record that makes him the US equivalent of our Lonhro. He was a classy juvenile, brilliant at 3, dominant at 4 and 5 years, tough, sound, consistent and always courageous, characteristics that John Messara says, “cannot be underestimated when selecting a stallion prospect in the modern era”.

SIRELINE PROVEN IN AUSTRALASIA

The quality of Gio Ponti’s race record is matched by his pedigree. His sire Tale of the Cat has been the most successful sire son in the antipodes of two-time Champion USA Sire Storm Cat. A son of the Champion English 2YO Storm Bird, Storm Cat proved a sensation when retiring to stud after a Grade One juvenile triumph, racking up 176 stakeswinners worldwide, including 35 at Group/Grade One level.

Tale of the Cat, a former Champion USA Sire of 2YOs, numbers among his 20 southern hemisphere-bred stakeswinners to date, the Group 1-winning sprinters or milers Glamour Puss (VRC Salinger Stks, SAJC Goodwood H.), Gathering (WATC Railway S.) and Tell A Tale (NZ 2000 Guineas).

The Storm Cat sireline has proved admirably suitable for Australasian conditions and is clearly a serious alternative for breeders seeking diversity away from the Danehill sireline. Storm Cat sons or grandsons have so far produced a remarkable 111 Australasian-bred stakeswinners, 17 of them victorious at Group 1 level. These include such stars as iron horse Grand Armee (7 G1 wins), current sprint star Hay List (3 G1 wins), Champion NZ 2YO Jokers Wild and the Oaks-winning trio of Faint Perfume (VRC Oaks, STC Storm Queen S.), Once Were Wild (AJC Oaks) and Boundless (New Zealand Oaks). Furthermore, Storm Cat, generally through his daughters, has nicked very well here, in particular with his close relation Royal Academy. The Storm Cat/Royal Academy nick has already produced Group 1 winners Foxwedge and Irish Lights.

TOP-DRAWER FEMALE FAMILY

Gio Ponti’s distaff pedigree is laced with first-rank names, among them his damsire Alydar (6 G1 wins & Champion USA Sire), granddam Salt Spring (Champion Argentine 3YO Filly & G1 winner), and close relative Cigar (twice USA Horse of the Year & 11 G1 wins). They all hail from the taproot family of foundation stallions Sundridge and Sainfoin.

So in Gio Ponti, a perfect outcross for Danehill-line mares, Arrowfield has secured one of the best US turf horses of all time. How does he measure up against the best Australian horses in his distance range, 1600m-2200m?

GIO PONTI & AUSTRALIA’S BEST

Timeform provides an authoritative comparison, awarding Gio Ponti a figure of 130 – higher than Cox Plate winners Northerly, Sunline, Makybe Diva, Octagonal, Saintly, and Super Impose. Timeform’s Gary Crispe describes Gio Ponti as “a modern day Strawberry Road.”

Arrowfield Bloodstock Manager Jon Freyer, who inspected Gio Ponti in Lexington last November, describes him as “an extremely handsome, masculine, solid bay, standing 16.1 hands, with a wonderful girth and shoulder, excellent balance and an imposing presence”.

Gio Ponti has begun Northern Hemisphere stud duties in 2012 in Kentucky at his owner’s famous farm Castleton Lyons. He has proven extremely popular there, booking out in just one week. The US turf champion will stand at Arrowfield for $22,000 (inc. GST) in the 2012 southern hemisphere season.