Point of Entry solidified his status as the best turf runner North America has seen this year with a clear victory in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park. The score for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was the fifth in a row from the Phipps Stable homebred, and his third consecutive grade I score (VIDEO).
"We always thought he was a nice horse, we just had to be patient with him," McGaughey said.
The 3-5 favorite ran 1 1/2 miles on the yielding turf in 2:33.73 under John Velazquez. He refused to be deterred by the race-riding tactics of European jockey Jamie Spencer aboard Treasure Beach , who floated him wide to the center of the track as the field turned for home. Point of Entry exits the Joe Hirsch with a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park Nov. 3.
"I was afraid going into today after all the rain on Friday and a big heavy horse like him, it might not be his race," McGaughey said. "I thought Treasure Beach might be the horse to beat over this turf. I was a little surprised at their tactics when they went on. And then when they opened up around there and carried us out, I was a little bit nervous. I don't think this was his race today, but he was good enough to win."
The race set up much as expected for the 4-year-old Dynaformer colt early on, as Arlington Million (gr. IT) winner Little Mike struck the lead with his frontrunning style and tried stretching out to the distance for the first time. Setting slow early fractions of :25.70 and :51.99, Little Mike only held on through three-quarters in 1:18.16 before Treasure Beach ranged up to grab the lead, going a mile in 1:43.67.
As the field turned for home, Treasure Beach drifted out through 1 1/4 miles in 2:08.29 and Kindergarden Kid ranged up on the rail. But Velazquez set Point of Entry down to the task on the far outside, and the top turf contender gave it his all, ranging clear past the eighth pole to win driving away.
"I was running forward already, so I wasn't really worried when Treasure Beach drifted out; I was worried about somebody else getting through on the inside." said Velazquez, who rode three grade I winners on the "Super Saturday" card. "When I asked him to go, he went."
Bred in Kentucky out of the Seeking the Gold mare Matlacha Pass, Point of Entry improved his career record to 7-2-1 from 14 starts with earnings of $1,294,490. He entered the Joe Hirsch off a victory in the Aug. 18 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) and also won the Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont and the Elkhorn (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland earlier this year.