Point of Entry gets tough Turf test
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP)
Point of Entry has emerged as the dominant distance grass horse in the United States with five straight wins, including three in a row against top-level competition.
On Saturday, Point of Entry takes another step up, facing some of the world's top runners in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
The 1-1/2-mile race is the second-richest of the 15 BC races this weekend, behind only the $5 million Classic.
Point of Entry is the slight 3-1 favorite over St Nicholas Abbey, back from Ireland to defend his title as the 7-2 second choice.
Half of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, a nine-time Breeders' Cup winner, saw a major difference in Point of Entry at Keeneland this spring. At that stage, the 4-year-old colt who started on dirt hadn't distinguished himself.
''We were patient with him,'' McGaughey said. ''He's always been a big colt. We tried him a little bit in his 3-year-old year on the dirt to see if that worked. It sort of didn't. His races weren't that good and I knew he wasn't going to be a Kentucky Derby-type horse.''
A year later, in Kentucky, Point of Entry showed what he could do in an allowance race. After dropping 26 lengths off the pace, Point of Entry stormed home to smash the Keeneland turf record for 1-1/2 miles. He came back less than two weeks later also at Keeneland to win the Elkhorn Stakes, and the winning streak was launched.
''Right then, his future was in front of him,'' McGaughey said. ''That's why we have the Breeders' Cup. We'll take him over and find out if he's ready or not for this. I think he is. I think he's done some things out of the ordinary.''
He'll need an extraordinary effort to beat St Nicholas Abbey from the stable of top Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien.
The winner of the Coronation Cup in England in June, St Nicholas Abbey arrives off a poor effort in France's top grass race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe where he was 11th on the soft course.
''I think it's safe to say you can put a line through his last run in the Arc,'' O'Brien said. ''The jockey knew after a furlong or so that the horse was in trouble on that ground, and did his best to look after the horse. Hopefully, it will be a different story on quicker ground here.''
Other leading contenders in the race include a pair from trainer Dale Romans - Arlington Million winner Little Mike and Pacific Classic winner Dullahan.
The Japanese-bred Trailblazer figures to draw betting support after running second in his U.S. debut last month.
Eldaafer is one of eight defending or returning Breeders' Cup winners competing this weekend.
The 7-year-old gelding won the 2010 Marathon and will be making a fourth straight appearance in the 1-3/4-mile race.
''He knows what his job is, and he does it very well,'' trainer Diane Alvarado said. ''God willing, he'll race again next year. He's doing really good and he's the soundest horse in my barn.''
The $500,000 Marathon on Friday attracted one of the most eclectic fields in this Breeders' Cup. It includes Atigun, third in the Belmont Stakes in June; the mare Sense of Purpose from Europe; and two horses from South America.
''All I can say is that's wide open,'' Alvarado said.
Trainer Todd Pletcher did his best to keep Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie separated as long as possible.
With the season coming to an end and the division title on the line, the undefeated stablemates finally meet on Friday in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies for 2-year-olds.
Both are 3 for 3 and are owned by the Stonestreet Stables founded by the late Jess Jackson who won the 2009 Horse of the Year title with a filly, Rachel Alexandra.
''The owners are blessed with a couple of very talented fillies,'' Pletcher said. ''Just looking at how the race set up, and the way both fillies were doing, we felt like it was the right thing to do to give them both the opportunity in this spot.''
Both won major stakes at Belmont Park in their latest outings with Dreaming of Julia taking the Frizette and Kauai Katie winning the Matron.
As impressive as their resumes are, the Pletcher duo fall short of Executiveprivilege, the 2-1 favorite who brings a 5 for 5 record for trainer Bob Baffert to the showdown.