Trainer Shug McGaughey knows his turf star Point of Entry is about to enter the toughest race of his career and the Racing Hall of Fame trainer is looking forward to the challenge.
While Point of Entry has rolled to three straight grade I victories in New York turf races this season, the 4-year-old Dynaformer colt will face some of the top European horses in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park, including last year's Turf winner St Nicholas Abbey.
"I think it is a very worthy challenge," McGaughey said. "That's what makes it the Breeders' Cup. Without the European influence the Breeders' Cup wouldn't be what it is. I'm looking forward to it. If we were able to win, we'd be able to say we beat some of the best horses internationally."
Point of Entry will carry a five-race win streak into the Turf, which has been won by European-based horses for four straight years. McGaughey noted that after a 2011 season where Point of Entry won two of eight starts, he put things together in a pair of races at Keeneland this spring, posting clear victories in an allowance race and the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT).
Point of Entry has only moved forward since then, as he posted grade I victories in the Man o' War, Sword Dancer Invitational, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes by a combined 9 1/4 lengths.
McGaughey hasn't had much time to look over the top European-based horses who will ship in but certainly noted that St Nicholas Abbey is back to try to win a second straight Turf. The 5-year-old Montjeu horse won this year's Investec Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup (Eng-I) and has placed in three other group I races this year in England and Ireland.
Also expected to make her U.S. debut will be 4-year-old filly Shareta, who posted group I wins in England and France this year. Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) winner The Fugue has the Turf as her second preference with the Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) as her more likely spot.
Last year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Ire-I) winner Treasure Beach has raced in the U.S. and Europe this season, finishing second to Point of Entry in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. Trailblazer won a stakes in Japan this season and has prepped at Santa Anita, where he finished second in the Arroyo Seco Mile Stakes (gr. IIT). Cogito, who won a stakes in England this year, would start in the Turf after a fourth-place finish in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT).
McGaughey noted that some of the U.S.-based horses also look tough. Other pre-entries with the Turf as first preference include Bourbon Bay, Kindergarden Kid, Optimizer, Slim Shadey, and Turbo Compressor.
McGaughey is the most recent trainer to saddle a winning favorite in a Breeders' Cup race at Santa Anita off an East Coast prep when Lure won the 1993 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at odds of 13-10 after prepping with a victory in the Kelso Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park. McGaughey will try to secure the 10th Breeders' Cup win of his career and first since taking the 2005 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (now Ladies' Classic, gr. I) with Pleasant Home.
Point of Entry is scheduled to breeze at Belmont Oct. 28, and ship to Santa Anita the following day. McGaughey is looking forward to next week.
"I'm a big fan of the Breeders' Cup," McGaughey said. "It's been good to us. I've enjoyed competing in these races over the years and I've enjoyed watching some of these other horses."