Rebounding from a dismal try in the Arlington Million (gr. IT), Indy Point charged to victory in the $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Sept. 29 at Santa Anita Park for red-hot jockey Gary Stevens.
The Hall of Fame rider won four races a day earlier, including a pair of grade I tests aboard Beholder in the Zenyatta Stakes and Mucho Macho Man in the Awesome Again, and missed by a head winning two other grade I races.
"My son (T.C.) won a race last night at Churchill (Downs) and that was really special," Stevens said. "My mom had a stroke last Monday though, and that has really put everything in perspective. I've just been trying to have fun, going fishing and just keeping everything in perspective. I didn't think in my wildest dreams though, that I'd have the kind of horses I've had this weekend–Mucho Macho Man, Beholder, Marketing Mix, this horse–it's unbelievable."
Indy Point, angled off the inside for the stretch drive, powered home convincingly for a 1 1/4-length win over the oncoming Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Vagabond Shoes in a superb time of 1:57.47 for 1 1/4 miles on firm turf. The track mark of 1:57.16 was set by Red Giant at the 2008 autumn meet. Lucayan closed willingly for third, three-quarters of a length behind Vagabond Shoes.
Indy Point, a star last year in his native Argentina, is trained by Richard Mandella for owner Gus-May-Fer, the nom de course for Felipe Lovisi of Argentina who also bred the winner. The 4-year-old Indygo Shiner colt was last of 13 in the Arlington Million Aug. 17 in his second start in the United States when bet down to 5-2 favoritism off an impressive win in the restricted one-mile Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar three weeks earlier.
Mandella said Indy Point grabbed both front feet when he clipped heels in the early going of the Million. While he never got into the race, he avoided a serious injury, the Hall of Fame conditioner said.
"The Million was just a nightmare, believe me, it was just a throw-out race," Stevens, who has ridden the good-looking chestnut in all of his U.S. races, told HRTV after winning the John Henry. "This was the real Indy Point."
Mandella, asked if Indy Point would be pointed toward the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, responded: "That would be my guess."
Indy Point won three grade I races last year in Argentina, including the Argentine Derby, and finished second in the country's most important race, the Carlos Pellegrini (Arg-I) as the favorite last December.
Twelve were entered in the John Henry, with Indy Point sent off as the 2-1 favorite. Slim Shadey, as expected, took the early lead from the far outside post angling over as they made their way through the stretch the first time, to lead Teaks North.
Slim Shadey set a solid tempo for the distance, negotiating the first half mile in :47.31 and six furlongs in 1:11.19. He reached the quarter pole in 1:34.30 with Teaks North, Old Time Hockey, and Tale of a Champion in pursuit.
Indy Point, who was always going well while he raced slightly off the rail from mid-pack, was angled out for racing room between horses in upper stretch. He displayed a flourishing late kick to challenge the leaders near mid-stretch under some urging and swept clear with little difficulty.
"I can't say that we had a plan," Stevens said. "He's a strong-willed horse and we kinda out-thought ourselves in the Arlington Million. Today, I just threw his head away from there and let him run free with a long rein."
Vagabond Shoes, following the winner with Victor Espinoza aboard, was too late to challenge for the victory but held second over the French-bred Lucayan, with Old Time Hockey fourth. Then came Teaks North, Slim Shadey, Kettle Corn , Holding Glory, Irish Surf, Tale of a Champion, Code of Conduct, and Affrettando.
Indy Point, out of the Parade Marshal mare Red Point, improved his career mark to 7-4-3 in 15 starts with his only out-of-the-money performance coming in the Arlington Million. He has banked $719,061.
"We called it as we saw it, and he trained well or I wouldn't have run him (today)," Mandella said. "He ran like he did at Del Mar. It was terrific."
"After what happened in Chicago, it's great to be back on track," said John Fulton, racing manager for Indy Point. "We always had confidence in this horse. He has never run a bad race. After his debut in this country, we wanted to go (to the Million). He was favored and he deserved to be, as we've seen today. But after what happened it puts a little fear in your heart."
Indy Point carried 121 pounds and rewarded his backers with a payoff of $6, $4.40, and $2.80. Hronis Racing's Vagabond Shoes, second in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) prior to winning the Del Mar Handicap for trainer John Sadler, returned $6.40 and $4.40. The exacta was worth $40. Lucayan paid $4.40 to show.
"We're in (the Breeders' Cup Turf), since we won a 'Win and You're In' (the Del Mar Handicap), and we wanted to see what he would do (today)," Sadler said. "He's going further, he's moving on out so we were happy with that race. He looks strong. If everything goes good the next month we'll take a shot at the big one. I'm very happy. It was a good race, a good strong race."