Shug McGaughey's Hall of Fame training career was built on good old American dirt with a remarkable collection of main-track stars such as Easy Goer, Personal Ensign, Inside Information, Heavenly Prize, and Vanlandingham.
But the 61-year-old Kentucky native is rounding out his resume with several accomplished turf runners targeting starts at the 2013 Gulfstream Park meet, including grade I winners Point of Entry and Data Link, stakes winner Boisterous, and a very promising filly, Abaco.
Point of Entry, winner of the Man o' War (gr. IT), Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT), and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) for Phipps Stable, carried a five-race win streak into the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park.
"He's new to me, because I never had a horse as good as him that wants to run long on the grass," McGaughey said. "I never won the Man o' War, I never won the Sword Dancer, I never won the Turf Classic, so he opened up a lot of doors for me that have been fun to participate in."
The 4-year-old son of Dynaformer missed the Breeders' Cup Turf by half a length to Little Mike when he lacked running room before launching a strong late bid. The defeat likely cost Point of Entry the Eclipse Award for champion turf male and possibly the Horse of the Year title for 2012.
"There'll always be disappointment; it's just the way it is," McGaughey said. "That's why they line them up. He ran a strong race."
Back in training at Payson Park, Point of Entry is being pointed for the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) on Feb. 9. Depending on how he comes out of that race, in which he is likely to clash with 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom, the colt will likely be shipped to Dubai for a start in the $5 million Sheema Classic (UAE-I) on the undercard of the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in late March.
"It could be on the radar, it's penciled in. It's something I'm thinking about," McGaughey said.
Point of Entry would be the first McGaughey-trained horse to run in Dubai, but his trainer has no qualms about making the long ship.
"Our goal is for the Breeders' Cup next year, so we'll have plenty of time if he does make it to Dubai," he said.
Of the other McGaughey-trained turf runners, Stuart S. Janney III's Data Link is perhaps the most intriguing. The son of War Front will target the Feb. 23 Canadian (gr. IIIT) after winning two grade II races this year on the lawn, the Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) at Monmouth Park in June and the Nov. 23 Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Betfair Hollywood Park. Last season he took the Maker's 46 Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
"He had a couple weeks off; he's about ready to start back training," McGaughey said.
Boisterous, also owned by Phipps Stable, captured the Knickerbocker (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park and the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct Racetrack before finishing second in the River City (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs last time out. McGaughey said he hasn't yet set a schedule for the son of Distorted Humor, but he doesn't expect any problems keeping his turf stars apart.
"I'm not worried about that. There are enough races around for all of them," he said.
Abaco, who captured her fourth straight race for Phipps in a turf allowance for fillies and mares at Gulfstream on Dec. 9, is likely to start next in the Feb. 9 Suwannee River (gr. IIIT).
The 4-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway, who had always shown McGaughey a lot of promise, didn't break her maiden until her ninth start on July 26 at Saratoga Race Course, but she hasn't lost since that day.
"A lot of times you'll see a horse keep knocking on the door and once they win, they keep winning," McGaughey said, adding with a bit of an understatement, "We always felt like she was OK."