LOUISVILLE — The race already regarded as arguably the toughest on the Breeders' Cup card has become that much more daunting.
Castleton Lyons president Shane Ryan announced Monday the farm's dual Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti will start in the Breeders' Cup Mile this Saturday rather than the $5 million Classic.
Gio Ponti, the reigning champion older male and champion turf male, had been pre-entered in both races with first preference in the Classic. However, the 11/4-mile Classic would have been the first start over dirt for the 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat in his 22-race career.
In addition to trying to dethrone two-time defending race winner Goldikova in the Mile, Gio Ponti also must take on Group I winner Paco Boy and four-time Grade I winner Proviso.
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Though best known for his middle distance ability, Gio Ponti has two Grade I wins at 8 furlongs, having won the Shadwell Turf Mile in a hand ride at Keeneland on Oct. 9 and the Frank E. Kilroe Handicap at Santa Anita in March 2009.
"As tempting as the Classic is, we were awed with his last trip over the mile course at Keeneland when winning the Shadwell Mile," Ryan said in a statement. "It is due to this professional performance that we feel we must take on the best milers in the world, including a showdown with Goldikova."
Gio Ponti, who is trained by Christophe Clement, finished second in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita Park, falling a length short of undefeated champion Zenyatta.
"I'm not sure which filly is more feared — Goldikova or Zenyatta," Ryan said. "Either way, neither race is a picnic. We are very much looking forward to the challenge. At this point we would like to wish all the connections in both races the very best of luck."
Proviso solid in final work
With trainer Bill Mott looking on, Proviso put in her last bit of serious work in advance of the Breeders' Cup Mile, covering 4 furlongs on the turf in :513⁄5 Monday.
Were it any other year, Proviso's string of four straight Grade I wins, including a victory over males, would make her the horse to beat in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
The 5-year-old Dansili mare will take a backseat in that department to Goldikova, who twice defeated Proviso in France. Although there was initially talk of skipping the Breeders' Cup in the immediate aftermath of Proviso's win in the Grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, her connections decided not to deny her a shot at becoming a champion herself.
"She earned her way in," Mott said. "She's won four Grade I's in a row, she's beaten the boys in California earlier in the year. It's obviously the deepest water but she deserved her chance. She's ready for the challenge."
■ Other notable works on Monday included Grade I winner J. B.'s Thunder covering 4 furlongs in :50 in preparation for the Juvenile, 2008 Filly and Mare Turf winner Forever Together working 5 furlongs on the turf in 1:01, and defending Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint champion Informed Decision drilling 4 furlongs in :474⁄5.
Forever Together will have a new rider for her start in this year's Filly and Mare Turf. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said Rosie Napravnik would be aboard the 6-year-old mare for the first time.