Point of Entry continues his ascent in Man o' War
Point of Entry continues his ascent in Man o' War
Phipps Stable's homebred Point of Entry exploded from right off a dawdling early pace to dominate Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park by 3 1/2 lengths, propelling himself into the nation's top rank of turf horses. Irish invader and 4-5 favorite Treasure Beach, however, could get no closer than fifth after being held up near the back of the pack.
Under a heady ride by Jose Lezcano, Point of Entry sat in a watching second as Center Divider strolled through fractions of :26, :52 and 1:16 3/5 on the firm Widener turf. When Center Divider began to pick up the pace through a mile in 1:40, Point of Entry quickened too and inched up to the leader's flank.
Lezcano set him down for the stretch drive, and finding a terrific burst of speed, the Shug McGaughey trainee stormed clear to win his third in a row. Point of Entry, who was dispatched as the 5-2 second choice, completed 1 3/8 miles in 2:13 4/5 and returned $7.90, $4 and $3.
"I thought the horse inside of me (Center Divider) would be going," Lezcano said, "but he wasn't going (fast), so after the break I let my horse settle right there. He wasn't pulling or anything. He did everything right. I think any distance would be good for him. He's a very good horse."
"I thought Jose rode him great," McGaughey said. "When Center Divider broke on the lead, (Point of Entry) laid right there with him. He said he just relaxed and galloped along. When someone kind of came up there he just sort of eased into the bridle and (Jose) kept him in the clear. I thought it worked out really well."
Center Divider crossed the wire in second, one length to the good of Tahoe Lake, and connections of the runner-up were pleased.
"Rosie (Napravnik) rode a beautiful race," said Cherie DeVaux, assistant to Center Divider's trainer Chad Brown. "Nice and easy, no one came next to her and she was able to stay up there and keep the pace slow. Jose just had more horse and we were second-best."
Newsdad checked in fourth, followed by Treasure Beach, Hudson Steele and the always-trailing Game Ball. Philly Ace was scratched.
Jamie Spencer, who flew in to ride Treasure Beach for trainer Aidan O'Brien, commented on his run.
"He was moving fine, he just didn't do anything," Spencer offered. "(The pace) was steady, but he was a bit rank early, so I had to get him back."
Point of Entry was coming off his first stakes score in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 27 at Keeneland, which interestingly enough, supplied the top four finishers in the Man o' War. Center Divider had unseated his rider at the start of the Elkhorn, while Tahoe Lake had finished runner-up to Point of Entry and Newsdad checked in fifth that day.
The well-bred Point of Entry, a half-brother to ill-fated multiple Grade 1 star Pine Island, has the profile of a late developer. The Dynaformer colt flashed talent at three, romping in an off-the-turf maiden at Belmont by 15 1/2 lengths, and finishing fourth in the Curlin Stakes on Saratoga's main track. McGaughey exercised his trademark patience by subsequently keeping him to allowance/optional claiming company on turf. Point of Entry began to come around with an entry-level allowance score at Gulfstream Park last December, then wound up an excusable fourth at the same venue in February.
The four-year-old has since come into his own with a course record-setting coup at Keeneland on April 12, and wheeled back 15 days later to take the Elkhorn. Freshened in the interim, Point of Entry returned to score a new career high in the Man o' War, and his $360,000 payday boosted his bankroll to $574,490 from his 12-5-2-1 line.
"I think he's learning," McGaughey noted. "I told (Jose), 'Just be careful he's not too sharp off when you come off the layoff.' I could tell in the paddock he was ready."
The Kentucky-bred is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Matlacha Pass, herself a full sister to Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home and multiple Grade 2 winner Country Hideaway, the dam of multiple Grade 2 vixen Boca Grande and Grade 3 victor Vacation.
Point of Entry's third dam is Grade 1 winner Maplejinsky, who produced Hall of Famer Sky Beauty. His fourth dam is champion sprinter Gold Beauty, who also produced multiple European highweight Dayjur. This family is also responsible for multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati.
Lady of Shamrock gains revenge in American Oaks
Hronis Racing's Lady of Shamrock, whose fast finish fell just short in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on June 9, comprehensively turned the tables on a bigger stage in Saturday's Grade 1, $350,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park. Deftly rallying up the fence in a tight spot for Mike Smith, the 3-2 favorite got through to the inside of Best Present Ever and shot clear by an impressive 1 1/4 lengths. Honeymoon winner My Gi Gi found the shoe on the proverbial other foot this time, and was along belatedly for second.
Lady of Shamrock was the highlight of a big day for trainer John Sadler, who sent out Switch to win the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap and who saddled the respective top two in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, Scherer Magic and Carson's Crown.
"I think clearly she's the best three-year-old filly on turf in the country," Sadler said. "We're very excited about her."
Reserved toward the rear early, Lady of Shamrock found herself several lengths off the slow pace set by English shipper Nayarra through splits of :25 1/5, :50 2/5 and 1:15 3/5 on the firm turf. Fellow Brit Miss Cato stalked enthusiastically, while Best Present Ever tracked on the inside, and Colonial Flag crept up to take closer order on the outside.
When Nayarra drifted out rounding the far turn, Best Present Ever seized the opportunity, and dove through to take the lead at the mile mark in 1:39 4/5. The English fillies began to tread water, as did Colonial Flag, but Lady of Shamrock was gaining ominously in the slipstream of the new leader.
Straightening up for the drive, Lady of Shamrock took advantage of a narrow gap left by Best Present Ever, and barreled through with authority. The Scat Daddy filly drew off to complete 1 1/4 miles in 2:03 and rewarded her loyalists with payouts of $5, $3 and $2.20.
"She was a victim of a slow pace last time," said Smith, who did not ride her in the Honeymoon, "and today it worked out real great where there was a little more pace and I was able to stay in the pocket the whole way and take advantage of it. (Nayarra) didn't corner too well, and that really helped us out because it open the race up and I was able to get up in there and on through.
"I know what she is capable of, but she was a little on her toes warming up and I was a little bit concerned she might be a little bit aggressive today, but honestly she turned off really well once the gates opened and after that got into a great rhythm."
"I thought at a mile and one-quarter she'd eventually get a lane or a seam," Sadler said. "I'm glad (Smith) didn't alter the strategy even though it was a paceless race. We still like to let her settle and she's doing really well that way. In turf racing you need to catch a break, you need to find a lane, and she did. She has a real good turn of foot."
My Gi Gi, who had gotten first run on Lady of Shamrock in the Honeymoon, found herself trying to play catch-up on Saturday. She struck top gear too late to trouble the winner, but rolled past Best Present Ever by 1 1/2 lengths for second.
"She ran huge," My Gi Gi's trainer Peter Eurton said. "The tables were switched today. She (Lady of Shamrock) got an unbelievable trip and saved ground. She got first run on us. It's all about who can relax and who can quicken. That's a remarkable filly who beat us today."
"She ran great," jockey Joe Talamo said of My Gi Gi. "I was surprised that other filly (Lady of Shamrock) got through on the rail -- that was a real tight spot. My filly gave it a roll and I was very proud of her."
Miss Cato tired to fourth, trailed by Stormy Lucy, Left a Message, Nayarra and Colonial Flag.
Lady of Shamrock's fourth career stakes win advanced her scorecard to 9-5-1-1, $465,400. Conditioned at two by Ronny Werner, she broke her maiden in her third try on the turf last November at Churchill Downs, and was later purchased privately and transferred to Sadler. Lady of Shamrock made a big impression in her Southern California debut when inhaling the field in the December 30 Blue Norther Stakes.
An early nominee to the Triple Crown, Lady of Shamrock auditioned on dirt in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes January 28, but didn't appear to enjoy the surface switch and checked in a distant third. She regained the winning thread back on turf, taking the March 10 China Doll and the Grade 3 Providencia on April 7, before her near-miss at odds of 1-2 in the Honeymoon.
The Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on August 18 figures to be the rubber match between Lady of Shamrock and My Gi Gi.
"We'll probably run her in the Del Mar Oaks," Sadler said.
"I can't wait for a rematch in the Del Mar Oaks," Eurton said.
Bred in Kentucky by Grovendale Sales, Lady of Shamrock RNA'd for $35,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. She sold for $80,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling, but brought only $11,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic the following May as a two-year-old in training. Produced by the Blushing John mare Blushing Issue, she's a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Smooth Jazz and the multiple stakes-winning She's Sensational. This is the family of Grade 1 winner Royal Chariot and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile upsetter Dakota Phone.
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