Tough Shoes to Fill

On Belmont Stakes day, the stubborn Point of Entry dug his heels into yielding ground, fighting off Optimizer and Real Solution all the way down to the wire.  It was a hard-earned victory, and the horse's fans all breathed a sigh of relief as he crossed the wire first in the Manhattan Handicap (G1).  Not soon after, however, the news arrived that Point of Entry had suffered a condylar fracture and would be sidelined for several months.  The chances of another shot at the Breeders' Cup Turf looked bleak.  Instead, surgery and recovery awaited the bay son of Dynaformer.

This news saddened the many racing fans looking forward to a great 2013 for Point of Entry.  With better luck in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, he might have won the award for Champion Turf Male.  He could have even been considered for the Horse of the Year title.  After this year's wins in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) over eventual Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom and then the gutsy victory in the Manhattan Handicap, he looked poised for an even better year than the previous.  With Point of Entry out of the mix, the division seemed wide open.  Little Mike, the Breeders' Cup Turf winner of 2012, ended up flunking in the first three starts of the year.  All of the others seemed little more than bridesmaids to Point of Entry.

All hope, however, was not lost.  Trainer Shug McGaughey and the Phipps Stable, the connections of Point of Entry, had another good turf horse in their barn. Boisterous was his name, and up until now, he had played second fiddle to Point of Entry, never meeting his stablemate in a race but instead picking up smaller prizes when Point of Entry danced the big dances.  He had finished third in Grade 1 races before, behind the likes of Cape Blanco and Desert Blanc, but he had yet to win one of those prestigious events.  With Point of Entry gone, though, and the division wide-open, it was time for the rapidly improving son of Distorted Humor to take center stage at last.

At the beginning of the year, Boisterous finished second to Successful Dan, Wise Dan's polytrack dynamo of a brother, in the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.  In the weekend that his stablemate suffered injury, he picked up a check in the Monmouth Stakes (G2), beating Big Blue Kitten in the process, who would later go on to flatter Boisterous in winning the United Nations Handicap (G1).  If Point of Entry had still been racing, he would have been the favorite in the Man O' War Handicap (G1), and Boisterous would have found smaller pickings elsewhere.  Instead, Boisterous was entered in the Man O' War against a solid field that included his brother's rival Optimizer and decent turf horses like Al Khali and Twilight Eclipse.  Nevertheless, Boisterous was made the 9-5 favorite in the field of eight.

He did not disappoint.  Optimizer failed to launch a challenge, and Boisterous came from off a solid pace to pass his rivals in mid-stretch, winning comfortably by just over two lengths.  He had earned himself his first Grade 1 victory and had done it in style, easing some of the sting of losing Point of Entry for most of the year.  After this victory, Boisterous could no longer be referred to as the second-stringer.  He was in the big leagues now.

This Saturday, Boisterous is the highlight in a field of thirteen in the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), another race that would have surely been on Point of Entry's schedule.  He faces United Nations winner Big Blue Kitten, as well as Twilight Eclipse, Teaks North and a (hopefully) freshened Optimizer.  With a win in this race, Boisterous would put himself firmly in contention for a grass Eclipse Award - quite the statement in regards to a horse who has been stuck in Grade 2 and 3 company for some time now. 

Yes, the loss of Point of Entry was quite the blow to both racing fans and his connections alike.  However, with Orb sitting on a big race in the Travers and now Boisterous stepping up his game, the Phipps family and Shug McGaughey should have plenty to smile about.  It may not be about filling shoes any more for Boisterous - this Saturday, he has a chance to make a name for himself.  Who knows - if Point of Entry comes back in time and finds himself thrown in with Boisterous, his vastly improved stablemate may just give him a run for his money.

-Emily White


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