Like a cat playing with a group of mice, Point of Entry gave both Optimizer and Real Solution some early hope in the Belmont Park stretch, before demonstrating his superiority with a facile 1 1/2 length victory in today’s Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap.
Scratched out of last month’s Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and a potential showdown with 2012 Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, the extended wait to see the Phipps Stable homebred was worth the wait. Ridden with ultimate confidence by John Velazquez, the five-year-old son of Dynaformer sat well off an ambitious early pace set by long shot, Plainview, before making a steady move on the backstretch.
As second betting favorite, Optimizer forged to the front on the far turn, Point of Entry moved quickly to menace as the eight horse field straightened out for the drive. While Optimizer proved to be a stubborn foe, and Real Solution uncoiled a strong late rush, it was all about the overwhelming 1-2 choice to the wire. Optimizer held off Real Solution for the place. The victory pushed his Hall of Fame rider ever closer to the 5,000 win milestone.
“We all know that this type of course is not his favorite, but every time you ask him to run, he gives you everything he has," said Velazquez. "He’s so big it takes him a long time to get going, but he still runs his heart out.”
A bona-fide turf superstar, Point of Entry now has five grade 1 victories within the past eleven months, including three at Belmont Park. No horse has been closer than 1 ¼ lengths back of the Shug McGaughey star in those wins, with the closest coming against the Dubai World Cup champion, Animal Kingdom at Gulfstream Park. Point of the Entry now has won seven of his last eight races, with his only loss coming after a less than ideal trip and narrow second place finish in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Only a runner-up in the championship deciding event last year, Point of Entry looks like strictly the horse to beat for that race this year, as well as, any other major turf distance race scheduled in America this year. Today, in the Manhattan, he was much the best.