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Aug 20, 2010

Gio Ponti out to defend Arlington Million crown



Arlington Heights, IL (Sports Network) - Defending winner Gio Ponti will take on nine challengers to his title in Saturday's 28th running of the Arlington Million at Arlington Park. The 1 1/4-mile grass race gives the winner automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Turf in November.

Trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti won the 2009 Million by 1 1/4-lengths over Just as Well who is also back for this year's race. Gio Ponti would go on be win Eclipse Awards as 2009 champion turf and older male thoroughbred.

The champion turf runner has been made the 7-5 morning-line favorite and will again be ridden by Ramon Dominguez. The pair will start from post six.

In three races this year the five-year-old has one win, the Man o'War at Belmont Park in his last start. He was fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March and second in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.

"I'm delighted with Gio Ponti," Clement said after the Man o'War victory. "Everyone made a big deal of him getting beaten (by stablemate Winchester in the Manhattan on June 5), but I never had a doubt that the horse was the leader of his division."

Owned by Castleton Lyons, Gio Ponti has won half of his 20 career starts for better than $4.1 million. Following last year's Million he was second in both the Belmont Turf Classic Invitational and Breeders' Cup Classic.

Hall of Fame member John Henry is the only horse to have won the Arlington Million twice, in 1981 and 1984.

Just as Well, trained and owned by Jonathan Sheppard, will be going for his first win of 2010. He is coming off a second-place finish in last month's Arlington Handicap, a race he won last year prior to the Million.

Julien Leparoux has the mount on Just as Well who is the 5-1 second choice in the program. The son of A.P. Indy will break from the four post.

His first start in 2010 was in the Ben Ali at Keeneland where he was fourth. Just as Well was second in the Dixie Handicap at Pimlico and fifth in the Manhattan Handicap.

After the 2009 Million, Just as Well was sent up to Woodbine for a pair of starts. He was second to Marsh Side in the Northern Dancer, but was a disappointing fifth in the Canadian International to Champs Elysees. He concluded the year in the Japan Cup in Tokyo, finishing seventh.

The seven-year-old has won four of 25 career starts with eight second-place finishes for $842,082.

Here is the complete field for the Million in post position order: Marsh Side, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Debussy, William Buick, 12-1; General Quarters, James Graham, 8-1; Just as Well, Julien Leparoux, 5-1; Quite a Handful, Tanner Riggs, 30-1; Gio Ponti, Ramon Dominguez, 7-5; Rahystrada, Inez Karlsson, 10-1; Tajaaweed, Michael Baze, 15-1; Tazeez, Richard Hills, 6-1 and Summit Surge, Kieren Fallon, 10-1.

Post-time for Arlington Million XXVIII is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. (et).

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