Gio Ponti’s time on Arrowfield’s roster was brief, but the Australian chapter of his story may well be substantial, especially if the early response to his northern hemisphere stud career is an accurate pointer to his future.
Standing at Castelton Lyons, at a 2014 fee of $US25,000, Gio Ponti was the leading Freshman Sire at last month’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale, with five lots selling for an average of $US217,000. His top-priced
Leading bloodstock industry analyst Bill Oppenheim has suggested, “Given the success at stud of U.S. grass runners Kitten’s Joy and English Channel, Gio Ponti is a horse whose yearlings Europeans, as well as Americans, should have on their lists at the yearling sales.”
Eclipse Award-winning author Mary Simon, writing for theDaily Racing Form in April this year, eloquently describes how Gio Ponti the racehorse was regarded in the United States:
Any fan not asleep at the wheel this past half-decade will know Gio Ponti’s name and deeds, for they were emblazoned in letters of fire across racing’s sky. He won major races in five straight seasons, during three of which he was one of the world’s very best. In an era when top Thoroughbreds are shunted off to stud at the crack of a heel or pop of a splint, Gio Ponti remained atop his game through age 6 and could have gone on from there. And in a world of one-dimensional specialists, he was successful from sprints to classic distances, on grass and synthetics, uncorked the occasional killer mile, captured bi-coastal Grade 1 races, banked nearly $6.2 million, and outran 62 Grade or Group 1 winners, including champions from all over the globe. A stakes winner at 2, a genuine star at 3, like the finest of Bordeaux wines, he got better with the passage of time.
That appreciation of Gio Ponti wasn’t shared by Australian breeders but it deserved to be, because he was a horse with the kind of soundness, toughness and sustained class that Australians most admire. Furthermore, all seven of his Grade 1 wins were on turf.
His sire-line offers more familiar material. Gio Ponti’s sire Tale of the Cat has produced 26 stakeswinners from his nine Southern Hemisphere crops, a career undermined before it began by his absence for the three years following his first season in 1999.
The 107 named foals in Tale of the Cat’s first, and only New Zealand-conceived, crop included four Group winners, among them the dual Group 1-winning mare Glamour Puss & Group 2 winner Falkirk, three Listed stakeswinners and seven other stakes performers.
Fifteen years later, it’s clear that Tale of the Cat and Red Ransom were the best of the sires that shuttled south in 1999, but Red Ransom had the advantage of an unbroken sequence of 11 seasons at Vinery Australia until his death there in November 2009.
Tale of the Cat has not returned to Australia since 2010, but he continues to stand at Ashford Stud in Kentucky at a fee of $US25,000 and is currently a top 20 sire in the United States, where his major earner this year is Stopchargingmaria (American Oaks G1, Alabama S. G1).
The wider Storm Cat sireline has also produced its share of top-class Australian performers, among them Grand Armee (Hennessy), Hay List (Statue of Liberty), Faint Perfume (Shamardal) and Turffontein (Johannesburg).
Storm Cat’s sons also appear as Group 1 damsires of Absolutely, Escado, Foxwedge, Irish Lights & Velocitea. And no, you’re not imagining it: all but one of those are by Danehill-line sires.