The Keeneland January sale concludes today, and one of the better-received sires of short yearlings was Gio Ponti, champion racer and promising young stallion.

Here are my thoughts on him going into this sale.

Gio Ponti (Bay horse 2005 by Tale of the Cat x Chipeta Springs, by Alydar)

One of the handsomest horses to go to stud in recent years, Gio Ponti also had the recommendation of retiring sound after a lengthy and honorable racing career in which he earned three Eclipse Awards and won seven G1 races for career earnings of more than $6.1 million.

By Tale of the Cat, one of Storm Cat’s fastest and most successful sons at stud, Gio Ponti was good from the beginning. He won two of his three starts at 2, including a listed stakes at Keeneland’s October meeting. His progress made him a graded stakes winner at 3, and at 4, he became a champion as the top turf horse and leading older horse, then repeated in the turf horse category at 5.

A notably scopier horse than his powerhouse sire, Gio Ponti possesses some of the best qualities of his broodmare sire Alydar. The latter was a first-rate racehorse who finished a battling second in each of the 1978 Triple Crown races behind Affirmed, then became a sire and broodmare sire of international acclaim.

Going to stud with the recognition of being a “turf horse” can spell doom for a stallion’s prospects. Breeders and buyers, however, seem to find more to like about Gio Ponti. His first foals went through the sales last fall, and nine sold for an average of $125,778 and had a median price of $120,000.

From 139 foals of 2013, that is a small number of sales horses but a very high rate of return for a stallion who stood for $20,000. So, one expects that the sales buyers were mighty impressed by the individuals and that more will be seen from Gio Ponti’s stock at yearling auctions throughout 2014.

At Keeneland January, there are nine short yearlings by Gio Ponti in Book 1, and they are split five on the first day, four on the second. Among the notable lots for Day 1 are Hip 167 and Hip 315.

Hip 167 is a dark bay colt out of the stakes-placed mare Ensign Appeal (by Successful Appeal). This is a May 20 foal with obvious potential to improve rapidly through the summer, and he is a half-brother to stakes winner Successful Talent (Dixie Union). This is the family of Thunderello, a highly ranked sprinter who ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Bluewater Sales consigns this colt as agent. [He sold for $30,000 to Secure Investments and is probable to be resold.]

Hip 315 is a bay colt out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Pastel Gal. The dam was stakes-placed, and this February 14 foal is the mare’s second offspring. Pastel Gal was twice placed in stakes at Belmont Park, and she is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Lyracist (Sultry Song), the winner of $589,956. Lantern Hill, agent for Highfield Farm, consigns the colt. [Ellen Charles (Hilltown Stables) bought the colt for $140,000, just after the dam had sold for $190,000.]