Tuesday, December 1, 2009

8: Gio Ponti Charges Home to Win the Arlington Million

The Arlington Million came about in the tail end of the Golden Era of American racing. John Henry would catch longshot The Bart in a thrilling stretch battle in the inaugural Miilion of 1981. This moment is cast life-size in bronze in front of the paddock at Arlington. Four years later on the last day of July the track caught fire. Reconstruction focused on keeping what would become known as the Miracle Million in the Heights. The track won an Eclipse for the accomplishment (first time a track had won).

While this past year's iteration can't match that drama, it did show signs of rejuvenation. Einstien, Gio Ponti and Precious Passion came in for the event. Precious Passion didn't scratch even though the turf was yielding, which is a big credit to the connections. The only European to take lasix on one of the hottest days of the summer was Stotsfold, and he was the greatest threat to Gio Ponti who typically makes his move a little early for a grass horse. They battled and Just As Well jumped into the frame representing one of my favorite trainers: Jonathon Sheppard. It was a great Million and Gio Ponti took good advantage of the swooping turns of Arlington's internationally renown turf course. His connections donated part of the purse to the Disabled Jockeys Relief Fund, which added a touch of class and poignance. Christophe Clemente, long known for his work with turf fillies, officialy crossed the gender barrier and would later bring Gio Ponti to race in the Classic on ProRide, earning the distinction of being the only trainer in the Classic without a drug infraction on his record.

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