In one of the more anticipated turf showdowns seen in American racing for several years, Point of Entry defeated Animal Kingdom in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap by 1 ¼ lengths.
Always in good stalking position under John Velazquez, Point of Entry was content to sit in second behind a slow early pace set by Salto. Sensing the dawdling fractions, rider Joel Rosario asked the 4-5 favorite, Animal Kingdom, to go on the backstretch, and the response was immediate. From back in fifth to first in seemingly a few strides, Animal Kingdom stuck his nose in front of Salto, and the race was on. The overmatched early leader soon succumbed to the speeding pair on his inside and outside, and it was down to Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom.
For a while it looked like the two horses that everybody came to see might battle it out to the wire, but it soon became clear that Point of Entry was sprinting home the faster of the two. Edging clear with every powerful stride, Animal Kingdom ran big, but had no answer for the 2-1 second choice. The winner stopped the time in an impressive 1:47 flat for the nine furlongs while signaling himself as the top turf dog in the land. Demonstrating his class, Point of Entry finished the final three-eighths of a mile in an almost unheard of :33.76.
For the powerful son of Dynaformer, it continued an amazing streak of grass racing that has seen him win six of his last seven, including four grade ones, with only a tough-luck, half-length loss to Little Mike in the Breeders’ Cup Turf preventing the winning steak. Owned in partnership by the Phipps Stable and Frank Stronach, and trained by Claude McGaughey, Point of Entry will now likely be off to the Middle East to contest the $5 Million Dubai Sheema Classic.
Meanwhile, for the valiant, second place finisher, Animal Kingdom, the race almost certainly will be his last race in America, with the rich Dubai World Cup in March his next target. It was another strong effort in defeat for the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, much as his Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Mile were, but that Derby win nearly two years ago remains his last stakes win.
The budding turf star, Unbridled Command also ran well to finish third, but the New York-bred simply could not keep up with the two superstars in the late stages, and finished another 1 ¼ lengths behind the runner-up.
One race after the showdown, sprinters took center stage in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, and it was Fort Loudon fighting off a series of challengers to score in the grade 3 affair. Showing good speed from the inside, the four-year-old son of Awesome of Course, never had time for a breather as he was challenged early and often. One by one, though, the Nick Zito charge fought off his competitors and was resolute in holding off Swagger Jack and Bahamian Squall down the stretch. Sent off as the 7-2 third choice in the field of eight, Fort Loudon hit the wire a half-length in front. Final time for the seven furlongs was a sharp 1:21.84, as the winner collected his 8th win in 21 lifetime starts.