Victory with a cost

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Tough game this deal called horse racing that so many of us love. Not 12 hours removed from feeling the satisfaction of winning one of the country’s biggest turf stakes with a horse who’d only started once since early November, trainer Shug McGaughey took his second uppercut of the weekend.

The first came about an hour after Point of Entry won the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Saturday at Belmont when Kentucky Derby winner Orb finished third in the Belmont Stakes. That one wasn’t good, but something he could withstand. The second, in the form of a non-displaced condylar fracture to the left hind cannon bone for Point of Entry, had to hurt.

McGaughey was talking about a Man o’ War Stakes title defense, a possible spin in the Arlington Million, and maybe the Breeders’ Cup one day. The next he’s talking about X-rays, fractures, surgery, screws, time on the shelf.

The injury was discovered Sunday morning, when McGaughey’s team took off the 5-year-old Dynaformer’s horse’s bandages in his stall. What they found was an ankle that “was blown up.”

Point of Entry suffered the injury as he fought off multiple challenges, first from the soft turf, then from eventual runner-up Optimizer and then from eventual third-place finisher Real Solution. He won the 10-furlong Manhattan in 2:02.55, a good time considering how much water was still in Belmont’s inner turf course following a good soaking rain the previous day and night.

McGaughey said the time off-the last time Point of Entry ran was Feb. 9 when he beat Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap-combined with shouldering 124 pounds was “starting to tell on him the last eighth of a mile, sixteenth of a mile.” Then it was, “I’m very, very proud of what I saw today.”

The next day it was, “Best-case scenario, maybe we can get a race into him in September. Best-case scenario, maybe the Breeders’ Cup is not out of the question. The intention all along was to retire him at the end of the year. I don’t know whether Mr. Stronach and Mr. Phipps will want to roll the dice and see what happens. If [Dr. Larry Bramlage] says it might be a long rehab time, we might have to pull the rug out from under him. I’m hoping, myself, that’s not the case. The primary goal was the Breeders’ Cup…”

John Velazquez, who positioned Point of Entry in a perfect spot in the Manhattan, did the same a few races earlier when Stephanie’s Kitten won the only other Grade 1 on the Belmont card in the Just a Game Stakes.

The ever ebullient Ken Ramsey said after the race that Stephanie’s Kitten was the pro tem leader of the female grass division and her perfect mark in two starts this season might back him up. She won the Distaff Turf Mile over Hungry Island on the Kentucky Derby undercard and the Just a Game came at the expense of the above rival and a few more heavyweights, including Grade 1 winners Centre Court, Mizdirection and Better Lucky.

Always the promoter, Ramsey made a point to tell just about everyone within earshot before he led Stephanie’s Kitten to the winner’s circle that the ledger between his filly and Centre Court was now “2-2.”

Centre Court’s trainer Rusty Arnold, waiting at the outside rail for Julien Leparoux to offer an alibi for her fourth-place finish, was rightfully unenthused, smiled graciously, shrugged and went about his business.

Ramsey went about his business, talked about how the plan was to bring Stephanie’s Kitten to Arlington for the Beverly D later this summer and how he hoped to dethrone Mike Repole as leading owner this summer at Saratoga Race Course. When told he might want to reconsider a trip to Chicago to keep Stephanie’s Kitten in the Northeast, where he might need a win at Saratoga in the Diana Stakes to stay in the hunt for the owner’s title, Ramsey offered a typically snappy response.

Yes, well, I’ve got several other horses running up there at Saratoga,” Ramsey said. “I’ve got six trainers all converging on Saratoga. And I should have some good 2-year-olds up there, too. I’ve got Chad Brown, I’ve got Wesley Ward. I’ve got Wayne Catalano. I’ve got Christophe Clement. I’ve got Todd Pletcher. And I’ve got Mike Maker. And as a bonus I’ve got my steeplechase horse, who’s running in a steeplechase graded stakes today at Colonial Downs, with Tom Voss, for good measure. So that’s seven counting the steeplechase…”

Ramsey’s steeplechaser, 2010 champion Slip Away, was scratched from Saturday’s Zeke Ferguson at Colonial Downs but could still try Saratoga. 

The Belmont card featured three other stakes, a pair of sprints in the True North for older horses and the Woody Stephens for 3-year-olds and the Easy Goer going 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds.

Joel Rosario continued to work his magic in graded stakes and guided the aptly named Fast Bullet to victory in the 6-furlong True North. The 5-year-old Speightstown horse, who tried the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last fall off nearly a year-long layoff in just his third career start, defeated fellow Zayat Stables runner Justin Phillip in 1:08.27. Laurie’s Rocket, third in his last two stakes attempts on Triple Crown race undercards, followed suit with another third for D. Wayne Lukas.

Rosario was back in the winner’s circle two races later after he and Forty Tales beat Declan’s Warrior and Jose Lezcano to a spot on the outside en route to victory in the Woody Stephens. Forty Tales and Declan’s Warrior traveled together and in deep stretch Rosario moved his mount to the outside of the late-fading Clearly Now while Lezcano was forced to his inside. Clearly Now crossed over into Declan’s Warrior slightly with about a sixteenth to go, then impeded him again slightly near the wire. The final margin was three-quarters of a length, just enough to put a smile on Todd Pletcher’s face and a look of disappointment and bewilderment on Nick Zito’s, even 15 minutes later watching the replay with his wife Kim in the tunnel.

Rosie Napravnik kept Power Broker, once considered one of Bob Baffert’s possible classics colts, about two or three paths off the inside rail throughout and cruised to victory in the Easy Goer to get the stakes six-pack off to a quick start. The Pulpit colt, who handled a sloppy track at Churchill Downs a little more than a week after the Derby, won in 1:41.55.

Handicapper’s scorecard: The 2013 Triple Crown is in the books and the handicapping team from TIHR managed to pick a few winners. None of the three identified Palace Malice among their top three for the Belmont, however. Sean led the way on Belmont day with three winners (Power Broker, Stephanie’s Kitten, and Point of Entry), while Tom picked two and Joe picked one. Tom picked 11 winners over the four programs–Kentucky Derby, Black-Eyed Susan, Preakness, and Belmont. Joe was second with nine and Sean was third with eight.