02/09/2013 5:34PM

Gulfstream Park: Point of Entry takes Turf Handicap after Animal Kingdom makes bold early move

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Barbara D. Livingston
Point of Entry pulls away from Animal Kingdom in deep stretch of the Gulfstream Turf Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom put on the show everybody had been waiting for in Saturday’s $300,000 Kitten’s Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

With jockey John Velazquez riding a patient and tactically perfect race, Point of Entry hooked up with Animal Kingdom on the final turn then gradually edged clear of the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner in late stretch, ultimately posting a 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Turf. Unbridled Command rallied mildly to finish third.

Both Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom were making their first starts since suffering unlucky setbacks within 80 minutes of one another on Breeders’ Cup Day. Point of Entry finished second behind Little Mike in the BC Turf after encountering some traffic issues along the way, while Animal Kingdom suffered the same fate as the runner-up to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the BC Mile.  

As expected, Salto set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Turf with Point of Entry stalking the leader from the outside. Animal Kingdom settled near the rear of the six-horse field during the opening half-mile of the race before making a somewhat surprising surge along the rail to join for command midway down the backstretch.

Point of Entry joined Animal Kingdom and Salto while widest of the trio on the second bend, edged to a short advantage leaving the furlong grounds, and then gradually moved clear in late stretch. Animal Kingdom dug in bravely when headed by the winner nearing mid-stretch before giving way near the end. Unbridled Command raced wide throughout and rallied belatedly while not seriously menacing the top pair.

Point of Entry, a three-time Grade 1 winner in 2012, completed the distance in 1:47.00 over the firm course and paid $6.20.

“It was quite a race,” said Shug McGaughey, who trains Point of Entry for the Phipps Stable. “We kind of had our tactics a little bit. I figured the horse of Todd’s [Salto] would go to the lead and if we broke good, could kind of been laying second to him without pressing him too much and maybe make Animal Kingdom commit early.

“It was kind of fun to watch, even though I was leaning a little bit trying to get him in front around that turn. I am very pleased with the way he came back. To win a Grade 1 going a mile and one-eighth is a real feather in his cap.”    

McGaughey had said prior to the Gulfstream Turf that the Dubai  Sheema Classic at Meydan on March 30 could be next for Point of Entry.

“We’ll see,” said McGaughey after the race. “I’ll get my folks together and get the people to talk to me and we’ll go from there.”

Graham Motion said he thought jockey Joel Rosario’s early move aboard Animal Kingdom might have proven costly in the end.

“I think Joe was worried the speed was a little slow so he moved a little early which cost us the race, although he made a split second decision and I’m not going to second guess him,” said Motion. “I think more than anything it caught him [Animal Kingdom] off guard to find himself in front so early. He was beaten by a very good horse under very awkward circumstances.”