07/15/2012 12:03PM

Point of Entry, and Other Saturday Impressions

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The most impressive performance in Saturday’s 12 graded stakes was, for me, Point of Entry’s emphatic victory in the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont. Point of Entry was able to transfer his at-the-time career best Keeneland turf form from last spring to a different, less sand-based grass course (something I wanted to see him do), and he showed the sort of brilliant late turn of foot that is often a hallmark of a top turf performer. Even considering the extremely slow early pace of the Man o’ War, and the fact that the race was run over the baked ground that seems prevalent on turf courses at tracks all over the steamy eastern seaboard, his final three furlong split of around 33.76 seconds was really motoring. On Saturday, Point of Entry simply looked like a high class race horse.

That said, let’s not go overboard here. For one, Point of Entry had a super easy trip in the Man o’ War, prompting the longshot Center Divider’s absurdly slow pace of 26.10, 52.05, and 1:16.68. Set ups just don’t get better than that. Moreover, when Treasure Beach, Hudson Steele and Newsdad all came up empty after being reserved off that pace (begging the question in each case, why?), it left Point of Entry with precious little else to beat. All he had to do is handle Center Divider, who stayed on for second, and third-place finisher Tahoe Lake, who, between them, were 0 for 12 in stakes of any kind going into Saturday. But Point of Entry handled them with great style, and his emergence is welcome in a male turf division begging for some star power.

Point of Entry races for the Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey, connections that almost completed a graded stakes turf double Saturday when their Boisterous fell a jump or two short of Rahystrada in the Arlington Handicap at Arlington. Rahystrada is not the kind who will compete for divisional titles, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a very cool horse worthy of our admiration. Rahystrada was winning the Arlington ‘cap for the second time, having also won it in 2010. The 8-year-old has also won a Kentucky Cup Turf, a Colonial Turf Cup, and a River City Handicap along the way, and now boasts a career mark of 38 starts, 13 wins, 3 seconds and 7 thirds. Rahystrada clearly loves the game.

Who says Mike Smith won’t come up the inside? That’s just what he did to win the American Oaks at Betfair Hollywood with Lady of Shamrock. The American Oaks was the other Grade 1 race on Saturday’s schedule, but I have learned to be skeptical of turf races restricted to 3-year-olds such as this one. Far more often than not, the big players in these races are found wanting when they eventually venture outside their age group.

It appears that reports of Switch’s decline were unfounded. Or were they? Switch was uncharacteristically awful when a badly beaten fifth in the Humana Distaff in her first start this year, and only marginally better when fourth in the Desert Stormer last month. Switch seemed significantly better Saturday winning the A Gleam one race after the American Oaks, but whether she is all the way back to her past, outstanding self is very much open to debate. The A Gleam was a race that completely fell apart in the seventh and final furlong, and the sense is that the 13.84 the final furlong was run in, and not a sudden recapturing of form, was why Switch got up to score.

A win payoff of $2.80 is never a bargain, but Grace Hall made it look about as good as it can winning the Delaware Oaks by a 3 3-4 length margin that felt a whole lot bigger. The thing to know here is, Grace Hall was even better in victory than it looks on paper. I’m not sure why she had to move four wide after the leaders on the far turn, but she did, and it wound up giving her a much harder trip than she had to have.

OblivionSuckers More than 1 year ago
Practically every longer grass race in NY these days turns into a stranglethon, with the riders choking their horses back off an absurdly slow pace. As Mike Watchmaker notes, in the Man O' War, they went :26, :52, 1:16.68 early, and this is on a rock hard, sun baked grass course. Joe Bravo's mount in particular, Hudson Steele, had gone much faster on the lead before, but in this case was strangled back off the crawling pace, never to be heard from again. Any horse in the field that was put on a clear lead could have wired the race the way this one was run.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So the rest othe horses in the A Gleam stakes are bogus ?
peter k More than 1 year ago
So all the others in the A Gleam stakes are bogus ? Maybe so .
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
POE was my top choice near postime with odds, thought he was the only horse that could beat favorite, so I was very happy he won and the way he won, capped my lock on pick-4, he is in top form and hope he stays so, favorite will be back with different surface turf. As for GH. lights out could have set track record if pushed but not need for JC to push any harder he knew it was over rounding the far turn, I gave him thumbs up after race and commened to him "Don't forget about Gemologist" now, he's your next bigtime winner"! He smiled, lights out! Awesome/wonderful day, Don
Scott K More than 1 year ago
And then there's Executiveprivilege, the Baffert 2yo filly who lived up to all the hype by winning her second consecutive start in the Landaluce, running faster than her male counterparts did in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship that day. Not only that, but if you project her time out, she ostensibly ran faster than Switch & company did in the A. Gleam, also on that card! Look out - we have the likely favorite for the BC Juvenile Fillies race if she continues as expected...
Perl More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to bet against Point Of Entry when he is 3-5 in the Sword Dancer.
Fred Reardon More than 1 year ago
Hi Mike, Grace Hall did show her class rather effortlessly. I flipped a coin between Newsdad and Point of Entry and lost - went with the price. But I really hated Treasure Beach, as his best races were all on rain softened courses and the east has been hard baked recently. Not Euro friendly here - maybe in August ,if AP is a bog. Mr. Smith did squeeze thru on the rail - good thing he didn't snag any clothing on that rail. It was a fast and furious finish. The winner was fast and the others were furious. Thanks, as always.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Treaure Beach looked like a winner 600 yards out in Dubai before spitting the bit. It's possible he doesn't want more than 10f. He had no chance on Saturday with the pace setup but still should have run better.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
treasure beach traveled over 40,000 miles in the last 6 months that is why he was a total throw out
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Treasure Beach runs on any type of ground, arguably better on firm turf where he ran his two best races - in the Chester Vase in which he beat future multiple G1 winner Nathaniel, and in the Epsom Derby of 2011 in which he battled spiritedly for almost the entire 3.5 furlong stretch, collared the frontrunner who wouldn't go away, held a close pursuer and was just nipped at the wire by the winner Pour Moi coming 3-4 paths away down the middle of the track. It was a much tougher race than the Irish Derby that he won on good ground. Treasure appears to be a tricky horse to ride. He fools around when he struck the front so he never won by much. He has to run tracking closely only, he had never fired when he was the frontrunner or when he was midpack or further back. He looked better last year so I am inclined to believe that he does not get along with Jamie Spencer, who's one of the first string riders for Aidan O'Brien. They need to put Colm O'Donoghue, who's their 2nd or 3rd string rider, back on him or maybe try Fallon or Soumillon. He wasn't exactly covered up in the Man O'War, he was wide all the way and far back, no shot! Spencer was gun shy after he rode another favorite Madman Diaries to the ground on the front end earlier in the day. Horrible day for Jamie Spencer.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
I understand that Euros like to race covered up, but Treasure Beach never got into the race at all. Basically, the horse just spun his wheels out there. When Spencer emphatically did try to get some run out of him it wasn't there. Only Spencer knows whether he decided to pull the horse out of the race from the start or the horse simply had no response. I guess we'll hear something soon about an injury or illness? That's what usually happens.