Racing & Wagering

Road To The 2010 Arlington Million - Vol. 6: Wednesday, July 14, 2010

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/14/2010 #

Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti was no disappointment as the odds-on choice in the wagering when winning last Saturday's Grade I Man o'War Stakes as Belmont Park by a neck, and should his connections pursue that same road taken last summer, the Christophe Clement trainee would make his next start in the Grade I Arlington Million XXVIII on Aug. 21.

That would allow Gio Ponti to be in a position to become the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of the showcase race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season, but he'd have to be in it to win it, and Clement has not yet announced what is next for his reigning turf champion.

"The grass is green and even greener now!" Clement told the NYRA's Ashley Herriman in post-race quotes.  "I'm delighted with Gio Ponti.  Everyone made a big deal of him getting beaten (by stablemate Winchester in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap June 5), but I never had a doubt that the horse was the leader of his division and I'm delighted with the way he ran today.  The race was completely against him; they walked in front, he was last but he's good enough to be versatile and win the race."

However, the French-born conditioner demurred when asked about Gio Ponti's next start, saying he would look for either a repeat in the Arlington Million Aug. 21 or a possible run in Del Mar's Grade I Pacific Classic run over the synthetic surface at Del Mar Aug. 28.

"We can enjoy it (the Man o'War win) a little bit, see how he comes out of it," said Clement.  "His well-being is the main thing.  As long as the horse is doing well, we'll be back in one of those two races."

Although Mrs. John Magnier's Powerscourt was first under the wire in both the 2004 and 2005 Arlington Millions, he was disqualified and placed fourth the first year for interference in the stretch, allowing Brushwood Stable's Kicken Kris to be the adjudged winner of the 2004 renewal. 

Also, Dotsam Stable's John Henry won the inaugural Arlington Million in 1981 and then came back to become the Million's only official two-time winner in 1984.

However, this Saturday is Million Preview Day at Arlington, with the Grade III Arlington Handicap, like the Million at 10 furlongs over Arlington's world famous turf course, serving as the final local designed prep for the 2010 Million.

Jonathan Sheppard's Just as Well, winner of last year's Arlington Handicap (and runner-up in last year's Million) is expected to head the field Arlington Handicap field once again, with Tom McCarthy's General Quarters, winner of Churchill's Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day May 1, and Tom Fedro Sr. and Team Block's Free Fighter, winner of Churchill's Grade III Louisville Handicap May 22, chief among his challengers.

Also on tap this Saturday at Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval is the Grade III Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 3/16-miles over the local lawn.  That race serves as the designed prep for the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes as the Arlington Million's sister race on Aug. 21, and heading this weekend's Modesty is William Deburgh's Tuscan Evening, a 5-year-old Irish-bred mare who remains undefeated in five starts - all in graded stakes - this year.

Nelson McMakin's Hot Cha Cha, winner of Churchill's Grade III Mint Julep Handicap Handicap June 5 on Belmont Stakes Day and runner-up in Churchill's Grade II Distaff Turf Mile May 1 on Kentucky Derby Day; Augustin Stable's Rainbow View, winner of Pimlico's Grade III Gallorette Handicap Preakness Day May 15; and Rich Ege and Team Block's Askbut I Won'ttell, winner of Arlington's $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes May 15 are among the others slated for the Modesty Handicap.

Completing the troika of this weekend's Million Preview Day graded stakes preps is the Grade II American Derby, middle leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple restricted to 3-year-olds on the grass and the prelude to the Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the final leg of the Triple during Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing on Arlington Million Day.  Together, the Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat Stakes are the only three Grade I races offered in Illinois on an annual basis.

Estrorace LLC's Workin for Hops, winner of the 75th renewal of the Arlington Classic as the first leg of the Mid-America Triple, heads the field for Saturday's American Derby and remains the only horse with a chance to become the first horse to sweep the Triple since Robert Schaedle III's Honor Glide accomplished the feat in 1997.

However, in the Grade II Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs this Saturday, Donegal Racing's Paddy O'Prado, who defeated Workin for Hops in the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup on May 22, is also being penciled in by trainer Dale Romans for a run in the Secretariat Aug. 21.