Thursday, July 12, 2012
POINT OF ENTRY TESTS DEEPER WATERS IN MAN O’ WAR
ELMONT, N.Y. – Point of Entry, winner of two straight, will make his first Grade 1 start when he competes in Saturday’s $600,000 Man o’ War at Belmont Park.
After beginning his career with a record of 1-2-1 in seven starts, Point of Entry cleared the first allowance condition in his final start of 2011, a 1 3/8-mile turf race in December at Gulfstream Park. The Phipps Stable homebred was fourth when cut back to 1 1/8 miles for a Gulfstream optional claimer in February, then won a pair of 1 ½-mile races at Keeneland during a 15-day span. The 4-year-old closed from 26 lengths out to win an April 12 allowance race by 1 ¼ lengths, then came back to win the Grade 2 Elkhorn, his graded stakes debut, by 1 ½ lengths on April 27.
“Being a Dynaformer, it took him awhile to come around,” said McGaughey. “He won an allowance race down there [at Gulfstream Park] in December, which was a good race When he came back [in an optional claimer on February 26], Johnny [Velazquez] said they were all going a little bit earlier and he waited and got himself in trouble and finished fourth. His two races at Keeneland were good races, and I just thought after I ran him back in  days [between an allowance victory on April 12 and the Elkhorn on April 27] that I’d give him a bit of a blow here and hopefully have a fresh horse for the rest of the year. I think he’s a true mile-and three-eighths to a mile-and-a-half kind of horse.”
Jose Lezcano will ride Point of Entry, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, from post position 3.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien aims for his second straight Man o’ War victory as he will be represented by Group 1 Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach. Last year, O’Brien sent Cape Blanco to Belmont from his Ballydoyle training facility in Ireland to win the Man o’ War, with the colt later making additional cross-Atlantic trips to take the Grade 1 Arlington Million and Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational en route to Eclipse honors for Champion Male Turf Horse.
Treasure Beach, owned by Mrs. Fitri Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael B. Tabor, seeks his first victory since winning the Grade 1 Secretariat last August at Arlington Park. Since that race, he was 14th in the 2011 Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France, third in the 2011 Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine, fourth in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March, and ninth in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup on April 29 at Sha Tin in Hong Kong.
Jamie Spencer will make the trek across the pond to ride Treasure Beach, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, from post 5.
O’Brien conditioned Johannesburg, the sire of Hudson Steele, the Todd Pletcher trainee who seeks his third stakes win of 2012 in the Man o’ War. The 5-year-old gelding won the one-mile Henry Clark by 2 ¼ lengths at Pimlico on May 28, then returned to Old Hilltop to annex the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Dixie by 2 ½ lengths on May 19.
The Roger Weiss color-bearer usually stalks the pace but found himself on the lead by default in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan on June 9 at Belmont, giving way in the stretch to finish fourth, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the 1 ¼-mile race.
“He hasn’t done a whole lot wrong over the spring,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Pletcher. “He’s trained right along since [the Woodford Reserve Manhattan]. He did all the dirty work in the Manhattan, and I think he’s better with a target. A mile and three eighths is a little bit of a question mark.”
Hudson Steele, 5-1 on the morning line, will have the services of Joe Bravo from post 7.
Trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul hopes Game Ball can emulate stablemate Mission Approved, who two years ago finished second in the Grade 1 Man o’ War in his first start off the claim and later went on to capture the 2011 Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan. In his most recent start, Game Ball was haltered for $47,500 out of a second-place finish on turf at Woodbine on June 13.
Game Ball hasn’t finished outside the exacta in his 10 most recent starts, a streak that began with a triumph in a $7,500 claiming race at Fort Erie last August. Chatterpaul said he had his eye on the son of Sky Mesa for a while, but the chestnut made eight straight starts in starter allowances before he was dangled for a tag in his latest outing.
“Since the [$7,500 race], he’s been a different horse,” said Chatterpaul, who trains the 5-year-old for Dorothy Gentner. “I was hoping they would put him in for a tag at Gulfstream Park. I thought he was going to be a nice horse as a 3-year-old. I liked the pedigree – it says he can run all day long. I liked the horse. Every time he won, I’d sit and wait.”
David Cohen will ride Game Ball, 30-1, from post 6.
From the rail out, the field also includes Tahoe Lake, seventh in a Belmont optional claimer on June 29 after finishing second in the Elkhorn; Center Divider, a graded stakes-placed runner who unseated his jockey when he stumbled at the start of the Elkhorn; Newsdad, victorious in the Grade 2 Pan American and fifth in the Elkhorn; and Philly Ace, a winner of two straight optional claimers at Monmouth Park and Belmont.
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