As one of America’s most consistent and popular horses over the last several years, Gio Ponti not only racked up more than $6 million in earnings, but he also collected a legion of loyal fans who appreciated every race he ran. As we all know, all good things must eventually come to an end, and so did the racing career of the versatile star. Late last year, after five excellent seasons on the track, including three Eclipse Awards, it was announced that Gio Ponti would be retired to stud. It was a well-earned retirement for the horse, but it also left a void for his many fans. Today at Belmont, part of that void was filled with the unveiling of an exciting new turf filly named Antonia Autumn.
A three-year-old daughter of Bernstein, out of the Alydar mare, Chipeta Springs, Antonia Autumn just so happens to be a three-quarter sister of Gio Ponti. Wearing the familiar green silks of Castleton Lyons Farm, Antonia Autumn made her first career start in a maiden turf race at Belmont Park, and looked eerily like her famous older brother.
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice in the field of eleven, the Kentucky homebred settled in a Gio Ponti-like position well behind the early pace of favored, Debase the Dollar and Madame Giry through opening fractions of :23.07 and :46.11. Under her brother’s old jockey, Ramon Dominguez, she moved into striking position in between horses as the field hit the stretch, but still had much to do with less than a quarter-mile to run. But that’s when the resemblance to her champion sibling really came into play, as Antonia Autumn exploded home to quickly gain the lead well before the wire. From there she cruised home to a two-length victory over Debase the Dollar under a hand ride. The Christophe Clement (of Gio Ponti fame) trained miss covered the flat mile over the firm turf in 1:34.71.
If it was not for her breeding and the shared connections, you would say today’s debut was an impressive one for a well-bred turf filly with a future. Knowing who she is though, makes everything just a little more interesting. She is the little sister of one of America’s most popular horses of the 21st century, and today she looked so much like him it was scary. She is now a filly that will be watched intently from here on, and for now, will be known as Gio Ponti’s little sister. But maybe, just maybe, Antonia Autumn will make a name for herself … so far, so good.