We might have seen two future Breeders’ Cup winners in action Saturday during the Arlington Million at Arlington Park and the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar.
Except for Rachel Alexandra, is there a sharper race horse in America than Gio Ponti? A 1 1/4-length winner of the 27th running of the Million, Gio Ponti has turned into a monster, winning four consecutive Grade 1 turf races at three different venues.
Gio Ponti started his streak with a victory in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March, won the Manhattan Handicap and Man o’ War at Belmont Park this summer and then capped the streak with his impressive win Saturday.
Any idea who might go postward as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 7? He’s already shown his fondness for the course, and anyone betting against him can do so at their own risk.
Meanwhile, Zensational continued to stamp himself as the top sprinter on the West Coast by zipping to a 2 1/2-length win in the Crosby, overcoming his own inexperience at the start to comfortably win his second consecutive Grade 1 sprint.
Trainer Bob Baffert is not sure what’s next, but it might be the Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 6 as the soon to be Hall of Famer eyes his third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Sprint win and fourth overall. He won the past two years with Midnight Lute and with Thirty Slews in 1992.
“I want to have him really right for the Breeders’ Cup,” Baffert said after Zensational scored his fourth victory in six lifetime starts.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s already displayed his love for synthetics, winning twice over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, once on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track and Saturday on the Polytrack at Del Mar.
Remember, it was Baffert who turned in one of the all-time great training jobs last year when he won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint for the second consecutive year with Midnight Lute off one prep race — a dismal 10th-place finish in the Pat O’Brien two months earlier.
Yep, Gio Ponti and Zensational. Right now they look to have the right stuff for that big weekend in November.