The 1 ½-mile race for 3-year-olds and up is part of the “Super Saturday” card at Belmont and a “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
There was nothing at all wrong with the Phipps Stable homebred, just that Hall of Fame trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey could see where Point of Entry’s year was headed.
“It was by design,” McGaughey said of the layoff for Point of Entry, the 4-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s race. “I knew when the Man o’ War was, and I knew when the Sword Dancer was, and I knew when the Joe Hirsch was, and I figured if we get through that, I know when the Breeders’ Cup is.”
Point of Entry, a 4-year-old son of Dynaformer, won the Grade 1 Man o’ War on July 14 at Belmont by 3 ½ lengths. He followed that up with an explosive four-length score in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course.
“He seems to be doing as well as ever,” McGaughey said of Point of Entry. “He had a good work Sunday, and I was really pleased, so we’re just crossing our fingers and hoping everything’s fine going up to the race.”
McGaughey calls Point of Entry “a pretty free-running kind of horse,” and he has tracked pace-makers from close up in his past two starts. On Saturday, he will face one of the best in 5-year-old gelding Little Mike. A formidable, front-running winner of last month’s Grade 1 Arlington Million, Little Mike will try the 1 ½-mile distance for the first time.
Victorious in 11 of 19 starts, Little Mike, the 2-1 second choice, built a reputation the past two years as a brilliant miler who could successfully stretch his speed an extra furlong under the right conditions. Trainer Dale Romans, however, had other ideas and pulled off an upset when Little Mike wired the field in the Arlington Million at odds of 4-1, opening up an insurmountable 4 ½-length lead at the top of the stretch and holding on to win by 1 ½ lengths.
Now, Romans will attempt to get another quarter-mile out of Little Mike, who figures to be the controlling speed in the Joe Hirsch.
“You’re always concerned about something you haven’t done before,” said Romans. “But he got the mile-and-a-quarter easy enough, and, hopefully, he can go ahead and get the mile-and-a-half. It will be the right kind of pace.
“Automatically, a horse with that kind of speed, the shorter the better, but it’s a totally different pace scenario. If he gets three quarters [of a mile] in 1:15, then all he has to do is sprint home. Running a mile, he’s liable to go 1:10.”
Romans also will run the uncoupled 3-year-old Finnegans Wake, 10-1, second last time out in the Grade 1 Secretariat on the Arlington Million card, and third in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby.
Treasure Beach, 6-1, will take his second straight shot at Little Mike, having finished sixth, 3 ½ lengths back in the Arlington Million. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the 4-year-old son of Galileo has been a world traveler, having raced in France, Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Belmont and Arlington since last October.
In July, Treasure Beach finished fifth behind Point of Entry in the Man o’ War at Belmont.
Kindergarden Kid, 12-1, third two weeks back in the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs, and Hailstone, 20-1, sixth in the Sword Dancer, complete the field.