Point of Entry Gets Better of Animal Kingdom in Kitten’s Joy Gulfstream Park Turf
Saturday’s $300,000 Kitten’s Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) brought together two turf stars looking to put bad-luck defeats in the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3 behind them.
Point of Entry, who fell a half-length short of catching Little Mike in the Turf after being blocked in the stretch, enjoyed a perfect trip under jockey John Velazquez this time to prevail over 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, the twice-crowded Mile runner-up, by 1 ¼ lengths.
“It was quite a race. We had our tactics. I figured (Salto) would go to the lead and I was hoping we’d break good and be laying second to him without pressing too much and try to make Animal Kingdom commit a little early,” said Shug McGaughey, who saddled Point of Entry for his sixth victory in his last seven starts.
Point of Entry did get the stalking position behind pacesetting Salto, whom he tracked during a relatively slow pace into the backstretch (first half-mile in 50.52 seconds). Animal Kingdom raced a few lengths further back before jockey Joel Rosario made a bold move aboard the 4-5 favorite, sending him inside of Salto to grab the lead leaving the backstretch. Salto fought back around the turn and was joined on the outside by Point of Entry leaving the turn into to the homestretch. Rosario cut the corner aboard Animal Kingdom to hold the lead in early stretch, but he was quickly joined by Point of Entry, who steadily edged away to victory.
“We went to the middle of the track and I know Animal Kingdom well. If he would have waited behind me he probably would have beaten me from the quarter-pole home,” said Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom to victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. “He made a move so big that he changed his style to my horse’s style, so it worked out to my advantage.”
Point of Entry, the 2-1 second betting choice in the field of six, ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47. Animal Kingdom finished 1 ¼ lengths clear of third-place finisher Unbridled Command and jockey Javier Castellano.
“ It was kind of fun to watch, even though I was leaning a little bit trying to get him in front going around the turn,” McGaughey said. “We’re very pleased the way he came back and to win a Grade 1 going a mile-and-an-eighth is another feather in his cap.”
Trainer Graham Motion expressed surprise at Rosario’s early move aboard Animal Kingdom.
“I thought it was a good run. I think Joel was worried the speed was a little slow, so he moved a little early, which cost us the race,” Motion said. “It gave Point of Entry a chance to follow him. He was beaten by a very good horse under awkward circumstances.”
The Gulfstream Turf was only Animal Kingdom’s third start since a troubled off-the-board finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 11, 2011, after which an injury to his left hind leg was detected. He came off an eight-month layoff to impressively win a turf allowance at Gulfstream last February, before going back to the sidelines for another eight months with another injury to his left hind leg that was unrelated to the first injury. The Kentucky-bred 5-year-old made a strong return in defeated in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Motion said Animal Kingdom didn’t react well to being taken out of his late-running style.
“I think more than anything it caught him off guard for him to find himself in front so early. I think Animal Kingdom was surprised by that,” Motion said. “Somebody who has ridden him and had more confidence in him might have been more patient with him. I think Joel was just anxious with the other riders going slowly and felt they should catch up, which confused the horse a little.”
Point of Entry emerged as a turf star last year during a five-race winning streak that included Grade 1 stakes triumphs in the Man o’ War, Sword Dancer and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, only to get tripped up during a troubled second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Both Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom may race next in Dubai on March 30, although in different races. If they do ship to Dubai, Point of Entry would run in the $5 million Sheema Classic, while Animal Kingdom would run in the $10 million World Cup.