01/08/2014 2:04PM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Point of Entry



                                                                photo by: Michael Amoruso

Point of Entry was retired to stud in early November. He had a wonderful career, winning half his 18 starts, eight of his 13 grass races, and earning nearly $2.5 million in purses. For all he did accomplish, though, the sense lingers that had good fortune shone more brightly on him, Point of Entry might have done much more.

With better luck, Point of Entry might have won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf, rather than finishing a close, closing second. And this year, the stars aligned even more fervently against him. Two races and two wins into his campaign, it was discovered on June 9 that Point of Entry had fractured his left hind cannon bone. Surgery to repair the injury was performed the next day, and one of the top two turf horses in North America was sidelined for six weeks.

The injury limited Point of Entry to just three starts in 2013, depriving him of a full season’s résumé that might have glittered bright enough for Horse of the Year talk. Yet Point of Entry, a son of Dynaformer out of Matlacha Pass bred by Phipps Stable – which sold a share in the horse for breeding purposes to Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs – still did enough to be a finalist for champion turf horse. When Point of Entry got hurt, trainer Shug McGaughey still was riding the wave of a Kentucky Derby win with Orb.

Still, losing Point of Entry must have stung painfully, though even as Point of Entry was going to the sidelines, McGaughey expressed optimism for the fall. The fracture was relatively minor, the sort of injury that in a perfect world would heal quickly. Maybe Point of Entry, McGaughey hoped, would come back to make one start in mid-autumn, a prep for another try in the BC Turf. But those hopes were only partly realized.

Point of Entry did heal quickly, and he began routine gallops again during August, but McGaughey simply ran out of time. Point of Entry wasn’t ready for a BC Turf prep race, and McGaughey had to send him to the race, his first in almost five months, off workouts alone. McGaughey expressed optimism before the BC Turf. Point of Entry was a most willing horse in morning training. He put forth a strong effort in his daily exercise, and, McGaughey said, had gone to the sidelines “dead fit.” But even the combined talents of Point of Entry and his trainer could not win the Turf.

Point of Entry, farther back early in the race than expected, made a big middle move to reach contention, but his stretch run lacked the final, necessary zip. He finished a close, admirable fourth behind Magician, The Fugue, and Indy Point. Early in the year, Point of Entry was awesome. Animal Kingdom was prepping for the Dubai World Cup, and did not get an ideal trip in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 9, but the nine-furlong distance of that race was supposed to play more to his strengths than to Point of Entry, considered a 10- to 12-furlong horse.

Instead, it was Point of Entry who put forth the stronger closing kick, edging away late to beat Animal Kingdom by 1 1/4 lengths. A delicious matchup with reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan loomed in the Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day, but heavy rain softened the Churchill grass course, and McGaughey wanted no part of it, scratching Point of Entry the afternoon of the race. McGaughey took Point of Entry back to New York, where he comfortably dispatched of Optimizer and Real Solution (the subsequent Arlington Million winner) in the Grade 1 Manhattan on June 8.

Point of Entry was rolling. He’d beaten the Dubai World Cup winner, taken care of business in the Manhattan, and he was ready to storm through the rest of his season and back to the BC Turf. But that was it, Point of Entry’s last visit to a winner’s circle, his point of departure leaving us to wonder what might have been.