Gio Ponti's first Australian stakes performer

There is plenty to learn from Pearl Congenial’s heady debut second in the $120,000 MRC Debutant S. LR on Guineas Day at Caulfield.

The 2YO filly jumped smartly for Craig Williams, raced boldly in the leading bunch, took control in the straight and was run down only in the final stages by Missrock who unleashed a whirlwind finish from the back of the field.

Pearl Congenial is the first Australian runner & stakes performer for US champion Gio Ponti who shuttled for the 2012 season from Castleton Lyons in Kentucky to Arrowfield. Bred by Watson Bloodstock, she is the second foal of city winner Congenial (by Redoute’s Choice) and was a $100,000 buy from the Newhaven Park draft at the Inglis Easter Sale for David Redvers on behalf of Pearl Bloodstock.

Pearl Congenial’s debut effort is an early indication that Arrowfield’s willingness to look beyond the obvious in the search for stallions is going to pay off.  That she is out of a Redoute’s Choice mare supports the case for sending Danehill-line mares to outcross stallions with top-drawer American form.

Of course, that case has already been forcefully made by Street Cry and Medaglia D’Oro, responsible for 22 Australian-bred Group winners between them, notably last season’s best juveniles, Pride of Dubai and Vancouver, both out of Danehill mares.  

The left-field strategy that brought Gio Ponti to Australia also led to Arrowfield’s 2012 purchase of Animal Kingdom. Like Street Cry, Medaglia D’Oro and Gio Ponti, he has an international, rather than a more familiar domestic pedigree and race record.

It’s significant that the Dubai World Cup G1 appears in the records of all four horses. Gio Ponti was fourth in 2010, Medaglia D’Oro was runner-up to Pleasantly Perfect in 2004, and Street Cry & Animal Kingdom won the race in 2002 and 2013.

Gio Ponti & Animal Kingdom also feature among respected US analyst Bill Oppenheim’s selection of young stallions likely to succeed in his Thoroughbred Daily News column, earlier this year.

Oppenheim notes Gio Ponti’s class, durability and versatility,  and adds, “The other reason I like Gio Ponti so much is that two other American turf sires, Kitten’s Joy and English Channel, have made sires, and Gio Ponti was certainly in the same class, at least, as a racehorse.”

He writes of Animal Kingdom, “He showed top-class form on all three surfaces, and won the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup. For all the legions of people who claim they want toughness and soundness, Animal Kingdom must be a horse who really appeals.”

Mated with Danehill-line mares, his chances of success in Australia must be rated outstanding, especially given the opportunities Arrowfield and their clients are giving him. The results so far include a beautiful first-crop filly from Arrowfield’s champion mare Miss Finland (by Redoute’s Choice) – now the dam of Group 1 winner Stay With Me, by none other than Street Cry.

First trial winner for Gio Ponti

Pearl Bloodstock’s 2YO filly Pearl Congenial, by US champion Gio Ponti, won her first trial at Cranbourne today. 

The Robert Smerdon-trained filly began smartly, took up the running with her ears pricked and needed only gentle encouragement from jockey Craig Williams to maintain her lead to the post. Pearl Congenial ran out the 800 metres in 49.31, finishing almost a half-length in front of Literate with Sweet Sherry third.

Watch Pearl Congenial’s trial win.

Pearl Congenial is the second foal of Congenial, a city winner by Redoute’s Choice from Group 2 winner Toast Of The Coast. Congenial was bought in foal to Gio Ponti for $85,000 by Westbury Stud from Arrowfield at the 2013 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

David Redvers purchased the yearling Pearl Congenial for $100,000 from the Newhaven Park draft at this year’s Inglis Easter Sale.

Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat-Chipeta Springs by Alydar) has had three 2YO winners this year from his first US-bred crop, including stakes-placed filly Truly Ponti. He stands at Castleton Lyons in Kentucky.

Gio Ponti's first North American winner Most Inspiring

Triple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti, who stood the 2012 season at Arrowfield, posted his first North American winner on Friday 31 July when 2YO filly Most Inspiring scored a dominant debut win at Woodbine.

The grey filly jumped smartly in the six-furlong turf maiden then settled easily behind Valentine’s Pearl and Morning Vow.  As they came round the turn Most Inspiring’s jockey Luis Contreras went for a clear run on the fence and, although momentarily unbalanced by the late change of direction, the filly responded generously to win by more than three lengths in 1:10.36.

Watch Most Inspiring’s debut win here.

Most Inspiring, an attractive, racy type, was bought by owner Derek Chin for $57,000 from the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Sale. She was bred by Corner Farm and John Behrendt from Chemise, a daughter of Secret Hello (by Private Account) and already the dam of three Listed stakeswinners and the Grade 3-placed Hello Lover.

Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat-Chipeta Springs by Alydar) was US Champion Older Male of 2009 & Champion Turf Male in 2009 & 2010. Renowned as much for his soundness and consistency as his class, he won 12 of his 29 starts and earned $US6.1 million across five racing seasons.

Gio Ponti’s seven Grade 1 wins include the Arlington Million Stakes, Man o’ War Stakes (twice) and the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (twice). He also finished second in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (to Zenyatta) and the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Mile (to Goldikova).

Gio Ponti stands in Kentucky at his owner’s Castleton Lyons farm at a fee of $US15,000.

Gio Ponti’s Australian-bred foals have just turned two and include fillies bought by Kevin Hickman, David Redvers, Dermot Farrington & Tony Noonan and colts bought by John Hyam, World Wide Bloodstock, Gabrielle Englebrecht & Robbie Laing.

Japan Cup winner spotlights Gio Ponti colt

Epiphaneia’s tremendous four-length victory in Sunday’s Japan Cup 2400m G1 spotlights an interesting colt to be offered by Arrowfield in two months’ time.

Epiphaneia is by two-time Japanese Horse of the Year Symboli Kris S. from the Sadler’s Wells mare Kirov Premiere who was based at Arrowfield from 2003 until her death just over a fortnight ago. Her last foal, an attractive colt by US champion Gio Ponti, is catalogued for the 2015 Inglis Classic Sale in February.

Gio Ponti’s first US yearlings have sold this year for up to $US500,000 and $US450,000 at Saratoga & Keeneland respectively.  The seven-time Grade One winner stood the 2012 season at Arrowfield which will present his first Australian yearling, a filly from Jemison (Commands), at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale in January.

Kirov Premiere was among the mares managed by the successful Arrowfield-Jungle Pocket partnership, responsible for Horse of the Year Weekend Hussler, Blue Diamond G1 winner Reaan and multiple Group winner Sweet Idea.

Herself a Grade 3 winner in the United States, Kirov Premiere had seven foals in Japan, including Epiphaneia’s dam Cesario, Japan’s Champion 3YO Filly of 2005 and winner of the Hollywood American Oaks G1 as well as the Japanese Oaks.

Kirov Premiere’s Australian-bred progeny include Group 3-placed city winner Savannah’s Choice (Redoute’s Choice), the unraced 2YO gelding See Me Sizzle, with Perth trainer Grant Williams, and two daughters, Kirovskaya (French Deputy) and Vishneva (Charge Forward) in the Arrowfield broodmare band.

Kirovskaya visited All American this Spring, while maiden mare Vishneva visited Redoute’s Choice, and both mares are safely in foal.

Gio Ponti story

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.