11/02/2012 9:52AM

Breeders’ Cup Turf: Point of Entry tries to cap breakout year

Barbara D. Livingston
Point of Entry has won three consecutive Grade 1 races at Saratoga and Belmont.

ARCADIA, Calif. – At this time last year, St Nicholas Abbey won the richest race of his career, the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.  Point of Entry was racing rather anonymously in optional claimers.

A year later, they are equals. Point of Entry has bloomed into a turf star in New York, winning three consecutive Grade 1 races at Saratoga and Belmont. St Nicholas Abbey has won a Group 1 race this year – the Coronation Stakes at Epsom, England, in June – but has lost his last four starts.

When they meet for the first time in Saturday’s $3 million BC Turf over 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita, Point of Entry is expected to be a slight favorite.

The development of Point of Entry in the last six months has not been a shock to trainer Shug McGaughey. The 4-year-old Point of Entry is on a five-race winning streak, beginning with an allowance race over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Keeneland.

“He‘s come a long way,” McGaughey said. “It’s been fun to watch him develop. Being a Dynaformer, he’s plenty big. We thought it would take a little time.”

Owned by his breeder, Phipps Stable, Point of Entry will start from the rail in a field of 12 in the BC Turf. Point of Entry’s winning streak includes three Grade 1 stakes in New York – the Man o’ War at Belmont in July, the Sword Dancer at Saratoga in August, and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Sept. 29. He won his first stakes in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April.

“I feel like he’s had a good season,” McGaughey said. “He had a little freshening after Keeneland.”

In the Turf Classic, Point of Entry won by 1 3/4 lengths over Treasure Beach, who is part of the BC Turf field.

“He’s had plenty of time since Sept. 29,” McGaughey said. “You worry about the travel, but he seems to have gotten there well.”
While Point of Entry has had an ideal preparation, St Nicholas Abbey has not had a smooth recent campaign. He was third in three consecutive Group 1 races before finishing 11th in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris on Oct. 7.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien said on Wednesday that the Arc was essentially a lost race shortly after the gates opened. St Nicholas Abbey was ridden by O’Brien’s son Joseph, who said that St Nicholas Abbey was not suited to the soft turf. St Nicholas Abbey finished 15 1/4 lengths behind race winner Solemia.

“In the Arc, Joseph said he knew after a furlong that he was in trouble,” he said. “He looked after him.”

O’Brien said that St Nicholas Abbey will perform better on firm turf.

“He’s in good form and I’m very happy with him,” O’Brien said.

There are 11 males and one filly, Shareta, in the BC Turf. The well-traveled Shareta is considered a top candidate.

Trained in France by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Shareta has won 5 of 15 starts and $2,123,853. This year, she won consecutive Group 1 races – the Yorkshire Oaks in England and the Prix Vermeille in France – before finishing ninth in the Arc.

Second in the 2011 Arc, Shareta makes her first start outside of Europe in the BC Turf since a seventh in the Japan Cup last November. Her record this year has earned the respect of rival trainers.

“Shareta is a good filly,” O’Brien said.

Among the 12 runners are seven Grade 1 or Group 1 winners, including the O’Brien-trained Treasure Beach, who won the 2011 Secretariat Stakes; Little Mike, who won the Arlington Million in August; and Dullahan, who won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.

Trailblazer, a Group 2 winner in Japan earlier this year, could give that country its first Breeders’ Cup success.

Dale Romans trains Dullahan and Little Mike. Thursday, he gave both of them gallops on the hillside portion of Santa Anita’s turf course. The BC Turf starts on the hillside, crosses over the main track, and continues for more than a circuit on the turf oval.

Thursday, when Dullahan crossed from the dirt back to the turf course, he seemed to hesitate briefly, Romans said.

“I’m glad we brought them over,” he said. “We’re trying to take away any variables that will be an excuse afterward.”

Earlier in the week, Romans said the two horses “complement” each other since Little Mike is a front-runner and Dullahan comes from off the pace.

“If there is a blistering pace, Dullahan will be running at the end,” he said. “If there is a leisurely pace, Mike can do what he did in the Arlington Million.”