Stallion in Review: Gio Ponti

If you’re looking for an attractive young stallion, you need not look further than Gio Ponti.

A stunning individual, he immediately draws the eye to him. He isn’t blessed with chrome galore nor does he have an unusual color, but that doesn’t impede his ability to capture the attention.  The lack of white is no deterrent for the mind as one cannot help but marvel at this Adonis of the equine world. Now a filled out stallion, one is hard pressed to find a horse that looks better on their best day and if you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t believe that he turned ten on February 28th of this year.

Unlike many superstars, he didn’t emerge onto the track and immediately generate buzz. He did that the old fashioned way.

Gio Ponti wasn’t limited solely to one surface as a runner; therefore, increasing his marketing potential as a stallion in a breeding world that has become a global phenomenon as more and more farms branch out into new countries with new and higher endeavors as breeders. An Australian farm threw their hat into the ring, and endorsed him to their loyal customers when he shuttled down to the Land of Oz to stand the 2012 season at Arrowfield Stud.

While his family is not one many in America consider “fashionable”, it is one laced with stamina as a combination of European and South American influences pepper his female family, and that may have been his saving grace.

He was allowed to flourish and attempt many different surfaces at tracks around the country like Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Delmar, Belmont, and Arlington Park, just to name a few. He traveled from one end of the country to the other and he even made the trip over seas for the Dubai Racing Festival twice in which he finished 4th and 5th respectively in the World Cup in consecutive years. If any horse has been the definition of an American traveler, it is Gio Ponti.

However, as many soon came to realize, it wasn’t his pedigree or where he raced that drew people to him: it was that one factor that just can’t be measure. It was his heart. It was his indomitable desire to always go out and give his best effort. As one fan told me, it was a combination of all those things that made him such a captivating horse.

Terri Bey (aptly named @GioPontiFan on twitter) has seen the best of the best in horse racing. She witnessed the mighty Alydar in his prime and she remembers the joy she felt from watching him race.  It wasn’t the eleventh Triple Crown winner Affirmed that captured her imagination like he did the public; that honor belonged to his long-time rival, Alydar.

So, when this handsome son of Tale of the Cat out of a daughter by her beloved Alydar started to rumble the racing scene, she naturally took notice. Race after race, as he got better and better, the love for this hard trying colt grew stronger. Naturally, when it came time for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Gio Ponti was the only horse in her sights. While the rest of the world oogled over the mighty mare in the race, many of the shrewd handicappers around the world knew that if anyone was going to beat Zenyatta, Gio Ponti would be the horse with the best chance that year as he had been putting in spectacular efforts of his own around the country and the condition of many of the international shippers was coming into doubt the days before the race.

As it proved to be an almost psychic prediction, come down to the wire, it was Gio Ponti that gave Zenyatta the biggest run for the money. The shippers, for one reason or another, just couldn’t fire that day. The other horses couldn’t keep pace, and the rest never saw her coming. All except that valiant colt with the orange saddle cloth. There it was again: that beautiful heart of his compelling his legs to keep going when the rest of him wanted to quit. While he didn’t win the race, he ran the bravest race on a surface that many argued was not one that he enjoyed quite as much as the winner did. While some hearts rejoiced, others like Terri, were heart broken to see her boy just miss while giving an effort that would have crushed the field any other year.

Photo Credit: AP File Photos

A brave second for Gio Ponti. Photo Credit: AP File Photos

However, whatever one’s opinion on the Classic that year, give all those who ran their dues. This was no cake walk for anyone. As if he had to prove anything to anyone, the year after in the Breeders’ Cup mile, he came second to the international sensation Goldikova, who had a resume that shamed most of the world.

It could be easy to say that Gio Ponti is one of the greatest runners to touch the turf to have not won a Breeders’ Cup race and it would be as close to a factual statement as one can get when making an opinion public. However, the lack of a Breeders’ Cup trophy does not define his career as an unsuccessful one: an unsuccessful career does not garner almost $6.2 million in earnings and three Eclipse Awards.

Though he’s not been at stud long enough to quite take the world by storm, his foals have been well received. Terri has attended a few sales where she has seen the quality of the babies going into the ring, and she can testify that they are certainly getting all the world-class traits of a world-class runner that Gio Ponti could possibly stamp them with as potential runners.

At the end of the day, while California Chrome and Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra and American Pharoah and all the others that dominate the headlines on a daily basis will continue to do so, Gio Ponti will silently build up a world-class record as a sire. His legacy will start out like a gentle rainstorm now and but before anyone realizes it, it will become a hurricane…just like his career. Those like Terri that have long believed in him, will be able to pull up their suspender straps and proclaim loudly to the world that they told us so, just as they told us to not count him out as runner. Take heed now, because if anyone has defied expectations in their careers, it’s been Gio Ponti.

Gio Ponti by Stats:

Owner: Castleton Lyons Farm

Breeder: Kilboy Estate, Inc.

State Bred: KY

Winnings: 29 Starts: 12 – 10 – 1, $6,169,800

Eclipse Champion Older Male & Champion Turf Male in 2009

Eclipse Champion Turf Male in 2010