Point of Entry continued his march through the most prestigious turf races in the country on Saturday, circling outside on the far turn to the front and then holding off two determined challengers to win the 112th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.
The 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 February 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.”
When the gate opened on the field of eight, long shot Plainview popped out to a 2 ½-length lead coming out of the first turn heading down the backside. Runner-up Optimizer secured a stalking spot in second place, well clear of Bombaguia and Real Solution.
After six furlongs in 1:12.94, the leader fell away and Optimizer took over with five-sixteenths of a mile to go. Point of Entry, meantime, moved from his fourth-place position and gradually began to reach the front. At the top of the lane, he engaged Optimizer and the two battled through the lane with Point of Entry holding a slight lead.
Real Solution, making his second start outside of Italy for trainer Chad Brown, rushed to join the fray on the outside, but Point of Entry held on and began to edge away at the finish to win by 1 ½ lengths. Optimizer held off Real Solution by a neck.
Finnegans Wake finished fourth, followed by Twilight Eclipse, Plainview, Side Road and Bombaguia.
“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.