Gio Ponti: bidding to become just the second dual Arlington Million winnerPICTURE: Horsephotos/NTRA
British trio out to thwart Gio Ponti at Arlington
Preview: USA, Saturday 11.14pm BST
Arlington Park: Arlington Million (Grade 1) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+
THE three British-trained horses lining up for Saturday's Arlington Million have a tough nut to crack in the shape of defending champ Gio Ponti (Christophe Clement/Ramon Dominguez), who is bidding to become only the second dual winner in the race's rich history.
The Luca Cumani-trained Summit Surge is joined by the John Gosden-trained pair Tazeez and Debussy in the 28th running of what was the first million-dollar contest in the States when it was inaugurated back in 1981.
The storied John Henry won that initial running - and he remains the only two-time winner after scoring again three years later.
If the Arlington Million has lost some of its lustre in the three decades since, at least it has attracted a major star inGio Ponti.
Runner-up to Zenyatta on the all-weather in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the five-year-old won a pair of Eclipse Awards and was named America's champion turf performer last term after a string of Grade 1 wins.
His victories included a length-and-a-quarter decisive victory at Arlington 12 months ago, when over Saturday's rival Just As Well (Jonathan Sheppard/Julien Leparoux) at Arlington 12 months ago.
A short-priced favourite with British bookmakers, Gio Ponti was back in the Group 1 groove last month when taking the Man o'War Stakes at Belmont Park.
Luca Cumani, who forged his international reputation when Pat Eddery rode Tolomeo to victory in 1983, reckons the favourite will be hard to beat.
Luca Cumani: "It will be tough"PICTURE: Mark Cranham
"We'll give it a go though, but I think we're running for second place," he said of his representativeSummit Surge (Kieren Fallon), who landed the Sky Bet York Stakes on his most recent outing.
Cumani added: "He won very well last time, but this is a step up and it will be very tough against Gio Ponti."
Huxley Stakes winner Debussy (William Buick), who breaks from the inner in the absence of non-runner Marsh Side, was fourth in that York contest.
He is joined by John Gosden-trained stablemate Tazeez (Richard Hills), second favourite behind Gio Ponti according to British bookmakers.
A fine third in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, the six-year-old filled the same spot upped in trip to 1m4f in the Princess of Wales's Sportingbet.com Stakes at the July meeting.
Six of the last ten runnings have stayed in North America, and Gio Ponti's support team includes course-and-distance trial winner Rahystrada (Bryon Hughes/Inez Karlsson), Grade 1 winner General Quarters (Tom McCarthy/James Graham) andformer Sir Michael Stoute-trainedTajaaweed (Dan Peitz/Michael Baze).
>>With significant rain forecast in the Chicago area, soft ground is a possibility.