Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, June 12

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/12/2011 #

Arlington Million Veteran Gio Ponti Misses in Manhattan ‘Cap; Original Beverly D. Nominations Also Prominent Saturday; Four Arlington Jockeys Juggle Standings With Doubles Saturday

Long range Arlington Million favorite Gio Ponti, owned by Castleton Lyons, may have failed to take the Manhattan ‘Cap again this year, but all things considered, it may have been just a minor slip up over soft ground.

“This was his first race back from the break,” said trainer Christophe Clement in post race quotes following Saturday’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap, run over the Long Island lawn as the race prior to Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.  Gio Ponti, who won the 2009 Arlington Million and was runner-up last summer in Chicago’s Grade I showcase race, had been absent from competition since the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 26.

“He will improve from this race on firmer ground,” added Clement.  “He’ll be back. We’re on a more or less similar schedule as last year.”

Jockey Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard Gio Ponti Saturday and also guided him to his second-place finish in the 2010 Arlington Million, expanded on Clement’s comments.

“My horse ran an awesome race,” said Dominguez upon his dismount Saturday.  “It’s very soft out there and I feel that in the last sixteenth or so the ground may have gotten to him.  Overall, I was very happy with his race.”

Finishing fourth in Saturday’s Manhattan was Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s Al Khali, who as is Gio Ponti, an original nomination to this summer’s Arlington Million XXIX to be run on Aug. 13.

Later Saturday afternoon, on the West Coast at Hollywood Park, original Arlington Million nominations Celtic New Year, owned by Michael Jawl, and Bourbon Bay, who raced in the silks of David and Jill Heerensberger, finished second and third respectively in the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap.

Original nominations to this summer’s Grade I Beverly D. Stakes, like the Arlington Million to be run as part of Chicago’s International Festival of Racing Aug. 13, were featured prominently in New York’s Grade I Just a Game Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day and also in Kentucky’s Grade III Early Times Mint Julep at Churchill Downs.

In New York, Augustin Stable’s Fantasia, a British-bred daughter of Sadler’s Wells, closed late to be clearly second best in the Just a Game, run at a flat mile over the grass, and would appear to be ideally suited for the Beverly D., to be run at a mile and three-sixteenths over Arlington’s world famous turf course.

“She broke a little flat-footed,” said Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard of Fantasia’s performance in the Just a Game. “(Jockey Joel Rosario) used his own judgment and gave her a chance to get settled…..and she ran hard and game.  I was really proud of her.  She was gradually running, but she wasn’t going to catch the winner; it was going to have to be another eighth of a mile, I think.  I’m kind of anxious to try this filly a bit longer now, because she really seems to be staying well and finishing well.”

Just a Game long shot Justaroundmidnight, an Irish-bred daughter of Danehill Dancer owned by Mrs. Paul Shanahan and an original nomination to the 2011 Beverly D., rallied late in to finish fourth on Saturday and is another who should appreciate the longer distance of the Arlington Million’s sister race.  Team Valor’s South African-bred Gypsy’s Warning, third in last year’s Beverly D., finished fifth in the Just a Game, with British-bred Beverly D. nominee Aviate, owned by Juddmonte Farms, finishing sixth.

In Churchill’s Mint Julep, Frank Jones Jr.’s Tapitsfly finished a good third, beaten a neck and a nose for all the money, while Team Block’s Askbut I Won’ttell came in fifth.

The “J’s” all did it twice Saturday at Arlington Park.  Jockeys James Graham and J. Z. Santana joined injured rider Junior Alvarado in a three-way tie for third in the Arlington standings through Saturday by riding two winners apiece during the afternoon.

Jockeys Julio Felix and Jermaine Bridgmohan also posted two wins apiece during the afternoon to move into a tie for eighth in the standings.

Also on the same local program, trainer Roger Brueggemann posted his second training double of the week.