06/08/2013 5:55PM

Belmont Park: Odds-on Point of Entry shows class winning Manhattan following layoff

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Barbara D. Livingston
Point of Entry, with John Velazquez up, wins the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Showing courage under fire despite less than optimal circumstances, Point of Entry fought his way to victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.

Point of Entry was re-routed to the Manhattan after being scratched from the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs five weeks ago due to soft turf, and was thus making his first start since beating Animal Kingdom four months ago, and his second since finishing an unlucky second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Another crack at the Turf is the ultimate goal for Point of Entry, and he now appears set up nicely for the second half of the season, after notching his fifth Grade 1 victory for the Phipps Stable and Shug McGaughey, who previously won the Manhattan with Good Reward (2005) and Dancing Forever (2008).

[BELMONT STAKES DAY: Video replays and race results]

Point of Entry’s Grade 1 tallies have now been delivered at four different distances, but this one wasn’t a walk around Belmont Park by any means, because Optimizer, who relishes boggy going, ran the race of his life in defeat for D. Wayne Lukas; and Real Solution also ran big in his second United States start for Chad Brown.

Optimizer patiently raced closest to 23-1 early leader Plainview through early fractions of 23.82 seconds, 48.27, and 1:12.94 and readily took command on the far turn.

Point of Entry, taken to the outside by John Velazquez entering the backstretch, moved to contention at the quarter pole and pounced upon Optimizer for the stretch run, only to be joined from the outside by Real Solution, who had swung out gathering a full head of steam into the lane.

Not to be denied, Point of Entry put a head in front of Optimizer from between horses at the eighth pole, and he was going away late to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

 “We all know that this type of course is not his favorite, but every time you ask him to run, he gives you everything he has,” said Velazquez. “It’s really nice to be able to ride these kind of horses. Sometimes it looks like he’s not going anywhere, but he’s running hard. He’s so big it takes him a long time to get going, but he still runs his heart out.”

Optimizer saved the place beneath Joel Rosario by a neck over Real Solution.

“He ran really well,” said Rosario. “He kept fighting. We were just second best. Point of Entry is probably the best horse on the turf right now.”

It was better than six lengths back to Finnegans Wake in fourth. Twilight Eclipse, Plainview, Side Road and Bombaguia completed the order of finish.

Point of Entry shouldered top weight of 124 pounds, giving away five to 11 pounds. A 5-year-old homebred by Dynaformer, Point of Entry ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.55 over an inner turf courses labeled yielding, and paid $3.10 to win as the overwhelming choice.

“For a horse who’s only run one time since last November, carrying 124 pounds, I think it was probably starting to tell on him a little bit the last eighth, the last sixteenth of a mile,” said McGaughey. “As I told Johnny today, ‘It’s going to be a grind for this horse today.’ Soft turf…we missed a race…I’m very, very proud of what I saw today. He’s a very, very good horse.”