You didn’t think that I would remember my final Arlington Million without mentioning Gio Ponti, did you? Do you think I’m a bit biased?
You are correct. I am.
On a beautiful day in Chicago in 2009, Gio Ponti, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, took the Arlington Million by 1 ¼ lengths over hard charging long shots Just As Well and Stotsfold.
Coming into the Million that summer Gio Ponti had already won three races in a row: the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont, and Man O’War also at Belmont. Gio Ponti was in great form and Christophe Clement had positioned him for great success in the Million. But just exactly how good was he? The Arlington Million showcases the best in international turf racing and this race was no different.
Shipping in from overseas for this race was Stotsfold, winner last time out from Great Britain, Gloria De Campeao, winner last out from Brazil, and finally Cima De Triomphe from Ireland. Rounding out the field were local favorite Just As Well, Einstein, Mr. Sidney, and speed of all speed Presious Passion who won impressively in his last race out in the United Nations at Monmouth (had a Secretariat-like 30+ length lead in that race.) We all knew that Passion would get out to an early lead, but the main question was could he hold on in this much tougher world-class competition.
“And they’re off in the Arlington Million and there goes Presious Passion,” stated track announcer John G. Dooley as the horses broke from the gate. Agreeing with Mr. Dooley there was no twist in the pace plot as Passion did get out to that early lead: eight lengths at the ¼ mile and 10 lengths at the ½! However what was deceiving about that early lead was the slower than expected pace that was set by the speed burner. Early fractions of :23.4, :48.2, and 1:14.1 were just enough to keep the rest of the field closely bunched together. Half way through the race Passion had a commanding lead.
Now one mile into the race, Gio Ponti took over. Mr. Sidney had grabbed a very quick lead on the far turn, but Gio Ponti was right behind him turning on the speed swinging three-wide! Officially by the chart he had a four length lead at the one mile mark; however that didn’t last very long. With 28-1 Stotsfold on the rail and 19-1 Just As Well on the outside, Gio Ponti would NOT relinquish the lead! He held on for the hard-fought victory as the 3-2 post time favorite! To me this was an incredibly impresive performance as he takes his fourth victory in a row.
In my mind this ranks as one of my favorite Millions of all time. And yes it is because Gio Ponti won! I can’t wait to see him again this weekend!