09/29/2012 6:33PM

Belmont Park: Point of Entry collects fifth straight win in Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

Barbara D. Livingston
Point of Entry, under John Velazquez, solidifies his status as America's best hope in the Breeders' Cup by taking the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

ELMONT, N. Y. – Point of Entry began 2012 eligible to a second-level allowance race. He is approaching the end of the 2012 racing season as perhaps America’s top hope for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

As the odds-on favorite, Point of Entry was a decisive winner of Saturday’s $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park for his third straight Grade 1 victory, his fourth straight graded stakes score, and his fifth straight victory overall. Always prominent under John Velazquez, Point of Entry overcame being carried very wide into the stretch by European invader Treasure Beach to best that opponent by 1 3/4 lengths.

As part of the Win and You’re In program, Point of Entry earned an automatic berth in the BC Turf at Santa Anita.

Kindergarden Kid, making just his second start off a $50,000 claim by trainer Mike Maker, loomed a threat along the inside in the stretch, but had to settle for third, 2 ½ lengths behind Treasure Beach. It was slightly more than 10 lengths farther back to Finnegans Wake in fourth.

Little Mike, the winner of the Arlington Million last time out and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic earlier in the campaign, was a major disappointment in the Hirsch as the second choice in the betting at 2-1. After taking the field along through fractions of 25.70 seconds, 51.99, and 1:18.16 over a Widener turf course labeled yielding, Little Mike retreated before reaching the far turn. He wound up a distant fifth, finishing ahead of only Hailstone.

Point of Entry, who completed the 12 furlongs in 2:33.73 and paid $3.50, was only about a length or two off Little Mike in the early stages, racing inside of Treasure Beach, who showed more early speed Saturday than he did in his first two forays to the U.S. from Ireland this year when fifth behind Point of Entry in the Man o’ War and sixth behind Little Mike in the Arlington Million. But Velasquez eased Point of Entry back a bit in the run down the backstretch and moved him outside of Treasure Beach.

Soon, Treasure Beach took over from the surrendering Little Mike, and for a while around the far turn, he outkicked Point of Entry. But Point of Entry moved up to Treasure Beach leaving the final turn. At that point, Treasure Beach drifted out to about the six path, carrying Point of Entry with him. That tactic, if it was one, failed, however. Point of Entry overtook Treasure Beach with a furlong to go and powerfully drew clear.

“The turf scared me more than anything,” said Shug McGaughey, trainer of Point of Entry. The turf courses here took moisture after Friday’s rains.

“I was afraid going into today after all the rain and a big heavy horse like him, it might not be his race,” McGaughey said. “I thought Treasure Beach might be the horse to beat over this turf. I was a little surprised at their tactics when they went on. And then when they opened up and carried us out, I was a little bit nervous. I don’t think this was his race today, but he was good enough to win.”

The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic extended what has become a stellar year for Point of Entry. Bred and owned by the Phipps Stable, the 4-year-old colt by Dynaformer – Matlacha Pass, by Seeking the Gold began his stakes win streak last April in Keeneland’s Elkhorn Stakes. He followed with a very impressive victory in the Man o’ War, and was even better when he won last month’s Sword Dancer.

Beyond being America’s best chance for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Point of Entry, at least at this point in time, is also now the one to beat for divisional honors. Of course, much will depend on what happens at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. But McGaughey, for one, is looking forward to it.

“We’ll go out there and catch a firm turf course,” McGaughey said, “and I think they’ll really see what he can do.”