Off his game in his past two tries, Past the Point makes his first start at Aqueduct for trainer Eoin Harty as the morning line favorite in the $150,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) Oct. 31.
The seven-furlong Bold Ruler drew an evenly-matched field of six with Past the Point, who won an optional claiming allowance race at the distance at Saratoga in August, listed as the 5-2 choice. The Darley-owned 5-year-old Indian Charlie ridgling returned to finish sixth in Saratoga's Woodward (gr. I) behind Rachel Alexandra a month later, then was well up the track in Keeneland's six-furlong Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) Oct. 9 over Polytrack.
"It’s time to change things up and make it a little easier on him,” Harty said. “I think he went too fast early on against Rachel, and his form has never been particularly good on synthetic. I’m running him here because I think he has a good chance to win here.”
Past the Point, second to Curlin in the 2008 Woodward, has won two of three starts at seven furlongs. His opposition includes includes Shadwell's Lucky Island, who won the Bold Ruler last year when it was staged at Belmont Park, and Le Grand Cru, recent winner of the Kelso Handicap (gr. III). The Bold Ruler will go as the fourth race on the program and shares top billing with the $100,000 Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.
Lucky Island, a 5-year-old son of Lucky Roberto, won four consecutive races last year, including the Bold Ruler and the Tom Fool (gr. II), but is on a five-race losing streak since. In his only two starts this year, The Argentina-bred dark bay horse was fourth in the Toboggan (gr. III) in March, in which he suffered a puncture wound, and then returned a well-beaten favorite in the Spooky Mulder, finishing sixth after stumbling at the start.
"We feel like he might have needed his last race,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He had been off since March, but he's training very well since then and we'll give him a chance. He’s a very nice horse."
Le Grand Cru, owned by Judson L. Streicher and trained by Allen Jerkens, defeated just two rivals in the off-the-turf Kelso, which was contested on Belmont's muddy main track. The 4-year-old Dynaformer colt finished fourth in both the Jaipur (gr. III) at Belmont and the Albert the Great at Saratoga earlier this year.
The 4-year-old son of Dynaformer made but one start at age 3 -- breaking his maiden in March 2008 at Gulfstream Park -- before resuming his career in February, compiling a record of 2-3-1 from 11 starts in 2009.
“He had a funny-looking leg, so they put him away for a while,” said Jerkens. “He came back to us when we got to Florida. He eats well, he does good ... he’s bred to go long on both sides of his pedigree, but I think he’ll go any distance.”
E. Paul Robsham Stables’ 5-year-old Gold Trippi has two victories from three starts at the Big A and also captured the James Marvin at Saratoga on July 29. Ninth to Pyro in the Forego (gr. I), he subsequently was runner-up in both the Spooky Mulder and an optional claimer at Belmont in the mud on Oct. 17.
Completing the field are Tom Durant’s Sing Baby Sing, winner of the 2008 Phoenix and fourth in this year’s edition in his second start of 2009, and Victory Thoroughbreds’ Cherokee Country, coming off a pair of victories at Philadelphia Park.
$150,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III, Race 4, 1:52 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Sing Baby Sing (KY), C Landeros, 115, J A Bruner
2. Past the Point (KY), E S Prado, 115, E G Harty
3. Gold Trippi (FL), C H Velasquez, 115, S M Hough
4. Lucky Island (ARG), A Garcia, 116, K P McLaughlin
5. Cherokee Country (KY), A Mariano, 114, G Preciado
6. Le Grand Cru (KY), J Lezcano, 115, H A Jerkens