Point of Entry took down 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom with a strong turn of foot Feb. 9 in the $300,000 Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) at Gulfstream Park, adding a fourth grade I victory to his already impressive tally (VIDEO) .
Phipps Stable's 5-year-old homebred son of Dynaformer came off a runner-up finish to Little Mike in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) to claim the impressive victory by 1 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile test, his first start of 2013 for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
An early mid-race move by new rider Joel Rosario may have cost Animal Kingdom the victory in what is planned to be his final start in the United States. With frontrunner Salto setting easy early fractions of :25.07 and :50.52 while 2-1 second choice Point of Entry stalked the pace three wide, Rosario sent 4-5 favorite Animal Kingdom rushing up the rail from fifth to reach even terms with Salto leaving the backside through three-quarters in 1:13.24. Many were surprised to see the 5-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux make his move so quickly, including trainer Graham Motion.
"I think more than anything it caught him off guard for him to find himself in front so early," Motion remarked. "I think Animal Kingdom was surprised by that. The only thing I was concerned about going into this race was having another rider on him. Somebody who has ridden him and had more confidence on him might have been more patient with him. I think Joel was just anxious with the other riders going slowly and felt they should catch up, which confused the horse a little. Joel made a split-second decision and I'm not going to second guess him for it. if he won he would have looked like a hero."
Animal Kingdom's regular rider, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, was committed to ride Point of Entry. He has piloted the big bay in 11 of 16 career starts, including victories in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) and Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT).
Velazquez had also been aboard Animal Kingdom four times after picking up the mount from then-injured rider Robby Albarado in the Kentucky Derby. In his runner-up finish in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), however, Animal Kingdom was ridden by California-based Rafael Bejarano as Velazquez piloted eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan to victory.
"I know Animal Kingdom well," Velazquez remarked. "If (Rosario) would have waited behind me he probably would have beaten me from the quarter pole home. He made a move so big that he changed his style to my horse's style, so it worked out to my advantage. I had my horse running so much by the time we got to the 3/16 pole my horse got his momentum going. It worked out for us."
"It was quite a race," McGaughey said. "We had our tactics. I figured (Salto) would go to the lead and I was hoping we'd break good and be laying second to him without pressing too much and try to make Animal Kingdom commit a little early. It was kind of fun to watch, even though I was leaning a little bit trying to get him in front going around the turn. We're very pleased the way he came back and to win a grade I going a mile and an eighth is another feather in his cap."
Provided he exits the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in fine condition, Animal Kingdom will proceed to the next step in his 2013 campaign, a start in the March 30 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) at Meydan. A potential start at Royal Ascot in England is also tenatively slated before his retirement to Arrowfield Stud in Australia.
"He was beaten by a very good horse under very awkward circumstances," Motion remarked. "I was a little concerned that maybe he got tired, but actually it looked like he galloped out with the winner."
Point of Entry is nominated to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) going about 1 1/2 miles on the same night as the Dubai World Cup, but would have to be nominated for the latter race, a 1 1/4-mile test, for a $10,000 fee by Feb. 13.
"We'll see," McGaughey said on a possible trip to Dubai for the four-time grade I winner. "I'll get my folks together and get the people to talk to me, and we'll go from there."
Bred in Kentucky out of the Seeking the Gold mare Matlacha Pass, Point of Entry improved his career record to 8-3-1 from 16 starts, with earnings of $2,014,490.