Unlike the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) last month, when he scratched Point of Entry because of the wet going, trainer Shug McGaughey said emphatically that the 5-year-old will compete in the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) June 8 at Belmont Park, despite the forecast for rain over the weekend.
The son of Dynaformer—Matlacha Pass, by Seeking the Gold has not started since his mild upset victory over Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 9.
"I'll tell you one thing, there isn't a horse on the grounds training any better than him," McGaughey said. "He's about as good as a horse can get."
McGaughey said a big difference between the Manhattan and the Woodford Turf Classic is that the former is run at 1 1/4 miles, while the Turf Classic is only 1 1/8 miles. Point of Entry's best races have been at 1 3/8 miles and 1 1/2 miles.
Last year, Point of Entry, owned and bred by the Phipps Stable, rattled off successive victories in the Elkorn Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland, Man o’War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont, Sword Dancer Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont. His streak was stopped by Little Mike, who was able to wire his field in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), while Point of Entry was given way too much to do, dropping a dozen lengths off the lead before rallying for second.
One thing in Point of Entry’s favor Saturday is his victory in the Turf Classic was over a yielding surface at Belmont, so he has proven he can handle the surface in top-class company. That race was run over the Belmont main turf course, while the Manhattan will be run over the inner turf course.
Point of Entry will not be without competition, the most noteworthy being West Point Thoroughbreds’ Twilight Eclipse, who was a $1,000 purchase at a livestock sale before winning his first two starts at Indiana Downs. The son of Purim was then purchased by West Point and turned over to trainer Tom Albertrani. In less than a year, Twilight Eclipse has won the William L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) at and most recently captured the Pan American Handicap (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park, breaking the world record for 1 1/2 miles.
In the Manhattan, Point of Entry, who will again be ridden by John Velazquez, will have to concede five pounds to Twilight Eclipse (124-119) and six to 11 pounds to the remainder of the of the 10-horse field.
Also in the field are three transplanted foreign horses from Chile, Italy, and Ireland.
Quick Casablanca, trained by Chris Clement, is a group I winner in Chile and Argentina, and finished a solid third in the Good Reward Stakes at Belmont in his U.S. debut May 15. Real Solution, trained by Chad Brown and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won minor stakes in Italy before coming to the U.S. and finishing a close fourth in the May 4 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT). Irish-bred Speaking of Which captured the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes (Ire-III) at the Curragh. After finishing second, beaten a half-length, in the grade II Twilight Derby at Santa Anita in his U.S. debut, the son of Invincible Spirit was 14th in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) and sixth in the Fort Marcy for Chris Clement.
Also in the Manhattan field is Calumet Farm’s multiple stakes winner Optimizer, who was an unlucky third in the recent Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) May 18; GoldMark Farm’s Bombaguia, a close second in the Fort Marcy; Darley Stable’s Side Road, second in the Elkhorn; last year’s Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) runner-up Finnegans Wake, owned by Donegal Racing; and the speedy Plainview, a former $20,000 claimer who has won four of his last six starts.
$500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT, Race 10, 5:40 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Inner Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Point of Entry (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 124, C.R. McGaughey
2. Quick Casablanca (CHI), J. Alvarado,115, C. Clement
3. Side Road (KY), G.L. Stevens, 115, K.P. McLaughlin
4. Real Solution (PA), J.R. Leparoux, 115, C. Brown
5. Optimizer (KY), J. Rosario, D.W. Lukas
6. Plainview (KY), I. Ortiz Jr., 113, G. DiPrima
7. Bombaguia (KY), E.S. Prado, 115, J. Kimmel
8. Twilight Eclipse (KY), J.J. Castellano, 119, T. Albertrani
9. Finnegans Wake (KY), J. Lezcano, 116, D. Romans
10. Speaking of Which (IRE), G.K. Gomez, 115, C. Clement