02/11/2013 9:51AM

Point of Entry, Graydar, and the Kentucky Derby Future Wager

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A few weekend thoughts:

I understand why people might say that, given the way the race unfolded, Animal Kingdom was best in finishing second to Point of Entry in Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. I just don’t agree with it. At all.

Yes, as a deep closer, Animal Kingdom was compromised Saturday by slow early fractions of 25.07 and 50.52. But to say Point of Entry had a huge advantage because he was able to prompt the pace ignores a fact that was obvious before the race: Point of Entry is a far more versatile horse. He can close from downtown when necessary, as he demonstrated in his near miss in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last fall, a race in which he was much the best. But Point of Entry can also be right with a pace if circumstances require, as was the case Saturday. Animal Kingdom has yet to show he can be more than one dimensional in top company. That is a weakness, not an excuse card that can be played anytime his fans want.

Maybe Animal Kingdom moved a little too aggressively in the initial stages of a third quarter mile Saturday that went in 22.72 to join the leaders. But frankly, I didn’t have a big problem with the strategy. Jockey Joel Rosario on Animal Kingdom was being proactive instead of reactive. He was trying to win, and as a rider who has done nothing but impress since moving east last year, I think it’s silly to question his decision. But what is being forgotten here is Point of Entry absorbed Animal Kingdom’s attempt at a knockout blow. Point of Entry responded immediately when the pace suddenly heated up and maintained his position with the leaders.

Moreover, Point of Entry was three wide on the far turn while Animal Kingdom saved every inch of ground. That was significant ground loss for Point of Entry, a notable disadvantage. So was the nine furlong distance of the Gulfstream Park Turf, which seemed a far better fit for Animal Kingdom than it did for Point of Entry, who is most effective in races at 11 or 12 furlongs, which we all know is really a completely different game. Hey, Animal Kingdom had a narrow lead in upper stretch. He had no excuse not to win from that point. Instead, Point of Entry overtook him in the final furlong and won going away.

The Gulfstream Park Turf was a terrific, enormously entertaining race. But the best horse was without question the winner. To me, it’s not even a debate.

I tip my hat to Graydar, winner of Saturday’s ostensible feature at Gulfstream, the Donn Handicap. Graydar was making only his fourth career start. It was his first attempt around two turns, and not only was the Donn his first Grade 1 attempt, it was his first stakes start of any kind. And Graydar ran hard every step of the way, setting a strong pace near the inside and pretty much spread-eagling the field at the finish.

However, there are a couple of nagging things that remain about Graydar that I would like to see him address before I put him up alongside Fort Larned and Wise Dan in the handicap division. One is obvious. Graydar is now 3 for 4, and all three of those victories came at Gulfstream. His only loss, a blah third, came at Belmont, his only career start that wasn’t at Gulfstream. So while I don’t really believe Graydar can’t win big at another track, I still would like to see him do it.

The other thing is the way the main track at Gulfstream seemed to play as the day went on Saturday. Specifically, the inside seemed to be live. Park City won the fifth with a rail rally, Saint Vigeur was inside speed in the sixth and won, and Fort Loudon in the ninth race (the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship) was pinned down inside in a wicked three horse speed duel, and had every right to chuck it. Yet he prevailed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Graydar’s Donn score was bias-aided, but I suspect it was with the flow of the track.

Pool 1 of the 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager concluded Sunday evening and as usual, the “All Other” option closed the favorite at 8-5. Without any significant 3-year-old stakes during this betting period, Sunday wound up a day for value shopping. Between the close of betting Saturday night and the closing of betting on Pool 1 Sunday, the field drifted from 7-5 to 8-5, Verrazano drifted from 9-1 to 11-1 (but remained the favored individual betting interest), Revolutionary drifted from 10-1 to 13-1, and Shanghai Bobby drifted from 11-1 to 14-1. That left a lot of room for the odds on many other individual betting interests to drop, and many did. Among the more notable ones were Flashback, who fell from 15-1 to 12-1 (that was a pure market correction), Itsmyluckyday, who received steady support going from 14-1 to 13-1, and Normandy Invasion, who fell from 19-1 to 15-1.

Now, I like Normandy Invasion (as a prospect with lots of potential, not at 15-1 in the Derby at this point in time). But I found it interesting that the horse who nosed Normandy Invasion in the Remsen, Overanalyze, was there to be had at 33-1. Delhomme, who finished less than a length behind Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion when third in the Remsen, closed at 55-1. And that was only after Delhomme dropped 29 odds points Sunday, more than anyone else.