ELKHORN STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/2 MILES
Phipps Stable's homebred Point of Entry made his turf stakes debut a winning one in Friday's Grade 2, $150,000 Elkhorn on closing day of the Keeneland spring meet. Guided by John Velasquez, the Dynaformer colt defeated a group that included two-time Elkhorn winner Musketier, as well as recent Grade 2 winners Newsdad and Simmard.
Tracking in midpack about seven lengths behind the leading Newsdad passing the wire for the first time in the three-turn race, Point of Entry was nudged along by Velazquez to keep in closer contact in the final seven furlongs. He soon drew alongside the tracking Musketier, the 10-year-old seeking a third consecutive win in the Elkhorn.
Up front down the backside, Newsdad, who had led comfortably through splits of :25, :50 1/5, and 1:16, began to come under pressure from Simmard, who poked his head in front after a mile in 1:40 4/5. Approaching the quarter pole, Simmard began to edge away from Newsdad, setting the fraction in 2:05 1/5, while Point of Entry and Musketier began to shift four wide to make their bids.
In the stretch Simmard held on to a tenuous lead, but it did not take long for Point of Entry to overtake him with more than a furlong remaining and the four-year-old drove home a solid 1 1/2-length winner in a final time of 2:29 2/5 for 12 furlongs on the firm turf. Sent off as the 5-1 fourth choice, Point of Entry returned $13.20, $7.60 and $5.
"At the half-mile pole he was right behind the other two horses and I was very confident from then on," Velazquez said. "I was just hoping that I'd get a clear run down the lane. So when I pulled him out I kind of got to the lead a little too early. But he handled everything very well. He responded right away. He probably needs a little target in front of him. But he did a good job."
Tahoe Lake, a 15-1 chance, rallied inside of Simmard in the final furlong to claim second by three-quarters of a length, with Simmard 1 3/4 lengths clear of Musketier. The order of finish was rounded out by Newsdad, Wilkinson, and Suntracer. Center Divider stumbled leaving the gate, unseating jockey Robby Albarado. Skipshot was an early scratch.
After breaking his maiden in his fourth career start by 15 1/2 lengths in an off-the-turf event at Belmont Park last May, Point of Entry finished second in his turf debut and then a distant fourth in the Curlin at Saratoga, his only previous try in black-type company. Reverting back to turf, Point of Entry won two of his next four attempts in allowance company, taking a 1 3/8-mile first-level heat at Gulfstream on December 26 and a 1 1/2-mile second-level allowance at Keeneland on April 12. In the latter, he came from 26 lengths down to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths.
"I was a little worried about running him back this soon. But he had a nice breeze the other day. And as you saw, Johnny [Velazquez] rode a perfect race. So it couldn't have been any better," trainer Shug McGaughey said.
Point of Entry's record now stands at 11-4-3-2-1, $214,490.
Produced by the Seeking the Gold mare Matlacha Pass, Point of Entry is a half-brother to the late multiple Grade 1-winning filly Pine Island, as well as the stakes-placed A Wild Ride. Matlacha Pass herself is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Pleasant Home and multiple Grade 2 winner Country Hideaway, the dam of multiple Grade 2 vixen Boca Grande and Grade 3 victor Vacation.
Point of Entry's third dam was Grade 1 winner Maplejinsky, who produced champion older mare Sky Beauty. The winner's fourth dam was champion sprinter Gold Beauty, who also produced multiple European highweight Dayjur. This family is also responsible for multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati.