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Arlington Million champ gets hero's ride to racetrack
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff

Last year's Arlington Million winner Gio Ponti is led to his stalls at Arlington Park after arriving from Albany, N.Y., Wednesday.

 

Courtesy Arlington Park

With Arlington Heights police leading the way, a truck carrying Arlington Million champ Gio Ponti makes its way through town before arriving at Arlington Park. Gio Ponti will try to become a two-time Million winner on Saturday.

 

Courtesy Arlington Park

Arlington Park bugler Jean Laurenz calls attention to the arrival of Arlington Million champ Gio Ponti on Wednesday at the racetrack. The 28th running of the Arlington Million is Saturday, and Gio Ponti is favored to repeat.

 

Courtesy Arlington Park

Gio Ponti, the returning champion in Saturday's Arlington Million race, heads to the barn after his arrival from New York. He's expected to take an early morning workout on Friday in preparation for Saturday's big race.

 

Courtesy Arlington Park

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Published: 8/18/2010 3:31 PM

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Sirens blared, lights flashed, bugles called.

Perhaps a little overkill, but if you didn't know defending Arlington Million champion Gio Ponti had arrived in town Wednesday, you probably do by now.

After an uneventful flight from New York to O'Hare, the 7-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday's 28th running of the Million was loaded onto a van bound for Arlington Park.

Exiting I-90 at Arlington Heights Road, the van was met by Arlington Heights police and escorted to the stable area, where Gio Ponti was greeted by a fanfare played by track bugler Jean Laurenz and led through a series of red ropes and silver stanchions and into Barn 8 - his home for the next several days.

"We had a very good trip," said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. "We left Albany about 8 a.m. this morning and there were no problems at all. We'll see how he eats today. He'll have an easy day tomorrow and gallop Friday."

Lorieul is no stranger to Arlington Park. In addition to accompanying Gio Ponti for last year's successful run in the Million, the French-born horseman was here with Clement trainees Royal Highness and Mauralakana, who captured the Grade I Beverly D in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

"I've come to Arlington three times and won the Beverly D twice and the Million last year," he said. "This racetrack and these races fit the type of horses we have."

Care for some Brie? In 25 years of calling races, Arlington Park track announcer John Dooley has only strayed from his booth once.

That was to call a match race at Lone Star Park from the winner's circle.

By Thursday evening, Dooley will have strayed twice, but this time it's for a dual purpose, raising money for charity through "Riding for the Cure" and serving as a leadin for the post position draw party later that night.

Using a hand-held microphone, Dooley is scheduled to call the ninth race on Thursday's card from the International Room, located on the fourth floor at Arlington.

"It'll be interesting," said Dooley, now in his 11th season at Arlington. "But it's all for a good cause."

Holy turf fest: If you like grass racing, then Arlington Park is the place to be this weekend as 11 of the 12 races carded for Million Day will be on the turf.