Phipps Stable's homebred Point of Entry extended his winning streak to five
in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000
Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, officially punching his ticket to the
Breeders' Cup Turf. Despite being floated out very wide by Treasure Beach
entering the stretch, the 3-5 favorite outkicked the Irish invader to score by 1
"The (yielding) turf scared me more than anything," trainer Shug McGaughey said of the condition of the Widener turf course. "I knew it would be a walking race, and he's got enough tactical speed where he can lay where he wants to, and it worked out fine.
"I hope he comes back fine, and we'll go out there (to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup Turf) and catch a firm turf out there, and I think they'll really see what he can do."
Point of Entry, now a perfect four-for-four at 1 1/2 miles, handed jockey John Velazquez his third Grade 1 win on "Super Saturday." The newly-inducted Hall of Famer had previously won the six-furlong Vosburgh aboard The Lumber Guy and the day's other marquee turf race, the Flower Bowl, with Nahrain.
As expected, Grade 1 Arlington Million winner Little Mike took up the front-running role and set pedestrian splits of :25 3/5, :51 4/5 and 1:18. Treasure Beach prompted in second, while Point of Entry drafted in a ground-saving third. After the six-furlong mark, Velazquez artfully angled Point of Entry to the outside, and the odds-on choice was lapped onto the top two entering the far turn.
Little Mike was soon a spent force in his first try at the distance. Meanwhile, Treasure Beach was put into overdrive by jockey Jamie Spencer, making his move a long way from home, and he reached the mile split in 1:43 3/5. Velazquez, in contrast, held his fire and didn't ask Point of Entry for his best just yet.
Swinging into the stretch, Velazquez produced Point of Entry, and he drew alongside Treasure Beach's flank through 1 1/4 miles in 2:08 1/5. But the new leader drifted out, carrying Point of Entry with him. At the same time, a huge gap opened up along the inner half of the course for Kindergarden Kid. The 23-1 longshot tried to make the most of it, but he couldn't get close enough to challenge the principals.
Although Point of Entry lost some momentum at the head of the lane, it was only a momentary hiccup. Once allowed to resume a straight path, the favorite was always going better than Treasure Beach, and he forged clear to stop the teletimer in 2:33 3/5. The convincing winner furnished mutuels of $3.50, $2.50 and $2.10.
"It seemed like we were going slower and he was having a little bit of a hard time with the ground," Velazquez revealed. "When we got to the top of the stretch, I said, 'Let's get him out where he could probably get a little bit comfortable, not between horses.' Once he got there, he was more comfortable. 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). When I asked him to go, he went."
"I was afraid going into today after all the rain and a big heavy horse like him, it might not be his race," McGaughey said. "I wasn't concerned with the way it was unfolding. 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."
Spencer believed that his hand was forced early.
"The pace didn't suit me, that's why I went on so early," Spencer said, "but ideally I could have done without the lead for a good bit longer because he was idle in front. Little Mike just stopped, so I had to take the lead, but it was probably not ideal getting there so early."
Treasure Beach crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Kindergarden Kid. It was another 10 1/4 lengths back to fourth-placer Finnegans Wake, who was in turn 14 lengths clear of Little Mike, his stablemate from the Dale Romans barn. Hailstone brought up the rear in the six-horse field.
The well-bred Point of Entry, a half-brother to ill-fated multiple Grade 1 star Pine Island, boosted his bankroll to $1,294,490 from a record of 14-7-2-1. The Dynaformer colt flashed talent at three, romping in an off-the-turf maiden at Belmont by 15 1/2 lengths, and finishing fourth in the Curlin on Saratoga's main track. McGaughey exercised his trademark patience by subsequently keeping him to allowance company on turf. Point of Entry began to come around with an entry-level allowance score at Gulfstream Park last December, then wound up an excusable fourth at the same venue in February.
The four-year-old has since come into his own with a course record-setting coup at Keeneland on April 12, and wheeled back 15 days later to take the Grade 2 Elkhorn. Freshened in the interim, Point of Entry returned to dominate the Grade 1 Man o' War by 3 1/2 lengths on July 14. He was similarly explosive in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on August 18 at Saratoga, where he ran off by four lengths.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Matlacha Pass, herself a full sister to Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home and multiple Grade 2 winner Country Hideaway, the dam of multiple Grade 2 vixen Boca Grande and Grade 3 victor Vacation.
Point of Entry's third dam is Grade 1 winner Maplejinsky, who produced Hall of Famer Sky Beauty. His fourth dam is champion sprinter Gold Beauty, who also produced multiple European highweight Dayjur. This family is also responsible for multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati.