Point of Entry fought off stern challenges from Optimizer and Real Solution to win the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
The classy 5-year-old Phipps homebred, ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, took the 1 ¼-mile fixture for 3-year-olds and up under top weight of 124 pounds in a time of 2:02.55 over yielding ground.
With the victory, Point of Entry has now won seven of his past eight starts, five of them Grade 1 races, with his only defeat coming by a half-length last November in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Although he had not raced since Feb. 9, when he won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Point of Entry proved fit and ready to run over the deep turf course to the delight of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
“For a horse who’s only run one time since last November, carrying 124 pounds, I think it was probably starting to tell on him a little bit the last eighth,” McGaughey said. “As I told Johnny [Velazquez] today, ‘It’s going to be a grind for this horse today.’ Soft turf, 124 pounds, hadn’t run but one time last November. I’m very, very proud of what I saw today.”
Velazquez was equally impressed with the son of Dynaformer.
“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,” Velazquez said. “Sometimes it looks like he’s not going anywhere, but he’s running hard. He’s so big it takes him a long time to get going, but he still runs his heart out.”
The victory was the ninth in Point of Entry’s 17-race career, and McGaughey said he would now be pointed toward the Grade 1 Man o’ War on July 13 at Belmont Park.
The $300,000 winner’s purse increased his lifetime earnings to $2,314,490.