Phipps Stable's Point of Entry captured his eighth victory in 12 starts on grass with a smooth come-from-behind win in the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park June 8 (VIDEO).
It was Point of Entry's fifth grade I victory in his last six starts.
With John Velazquez riding for trainer Shug McGaughey, homebred Point of Entry made his bid from fourth place entering the far turn in the 1 1/4-mile turf race, ranged up in the lane to challenge Optimizer, and gradually drew away in the final furlong to win in 2:02.55 on a yielding course. Optimizer, who took the lead in the stretch, held for second ahead of Real Solution, who loomed large in mid-stretch but failed to sustain his bid.
Considering the soft going, 23-1 shot Plainview set a lively early pace of :23.82 for the opening quarter-mile and :48.27 for a half-mile, and 1:12.94 for six furlongs. He was stalked by Optimizer and Bombaguia as Point of Entry was reserved in fourth or fifth.
After one mile in 1:37.69, Plainview weakened. Optimizer took the lead at the quarter pole but Point of Entry quickly engaged him in the stretch and pulled away to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Real Solution, who appeared to have the momentum after rallying into the picture on the outside, finished a neck behind Optimizer.
Point of Entry, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Dynaformer out of the Seeking the Gold mare Matlacha Pass, paid $3.10 to win as the 1-2 favorite, $2.50, and $2.10. Optimizer returned $3.90 and $3, while Real Solution paid $4.10. The exacta was worth $11.
Point of Entry now has nine wins in 17 career starts and earnings of $2,314,490.
"I thought he got into a good stride," McGaughey said. "I was a little surprised at the early fractions. I thought maybe (Bombaguia) would be the speed, then (Plainview) went. (Velazquez) got him into a good spot; he said that's where he wanted him to be.
"For a horse who has only run one time since last November, carrying 124 pounds, I think it was probably starting to tell on him a little bit the last eighth, the last sixteenth of a mile. I'm very, very proud of what I saw today. He's a very, very good horse."
"We all know that this type of course is not his favorite, but every time you ask him to run, he gives you everything he has," Velazquez said. "It's really nice to be able to ride these kind of horses. Sometimes it looks like he's not going anywhere, but he's running hard. He's so big it takes him a long time to get going, but he still runs his heart out."
Optimizer, a 4-year-old who made his 26th start in the Manhattan, was valiant in defeat.
"He ran really well," jockey Joel Rosario said. "He kept fighting. We were just second best. Point of Entry is probably the best horse on the turf right now."