One of the aspects of sports that draws people in is its unpredictability, the highs and the lows of any sport is a great diversion from the redundancy of the everyday world. Its no secret either, its is how it’s packaged and sold, from the ‘thrill of victory, to the agony of defeat’. The role of sports today is to channel the ‘fight or flight’ emotion humans have built up from thousands of years of tribals attacks, battles, victory and loss.
Of all the sports, thoroughbred horse racing by design is arguably one that may key into most of those primal urges. The same way a great horse like Zenyatta can feel the thrill of beating the boys in the Breeders’ Cup and the agony one year later of getting nosed out at the wire, a handicapper can take down a big score that can get him by for months, or suffer a crushing defeat that can ruin his year.
Perhaps no one has felt the full swing this year more that trainer Shug McGaughey, who began the month of May with Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Point of Entry, arguably the best turf horse in the country in his stable. Fast forward to the beginning of June and Orb would have lost both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and Point of Entry would have been undergoing shoulder surgery for an injury he suffered winning the Manhattan Handicap.
Of course no one has been more hardened by the peaks and valleys of the game that Shug who is a 63 year-old Kentucky homebred who is in his 27th year as the head trainer for the Phipps Stables. And up to now only a seasoned veteran like McGaughey could have taken a year like he’s had in stride, at least enough stride to have his champion colt, Point of Entry ready to run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic today coming off an injury and without a prep race. But make no mistake, if Point of Entry wins the Turf Classic this Saturday it will be a true testament to Shug’s abilities as a trainer, and horseman. It will also once again magnify the extreme ups and downs that go with being in sports, particularly one like thoroughbred horse racing.
If Point of Entry is healthy a win is certainly not out of the question, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf he may have been the best horse in that race. Not to take anything away from the winner Little Mike, who has certainly proven himself to be a top quality horse. In last year’s race had it not been for an excellent ride by Ramon Dominguez and an extremely unfavorable track for closers then the five year old son of Dynaformer could have won that race and possibly Horse of the Year. In fact a solid case could be made that in the last two years, Point of Entry has been the best turf horse in the country. Consider that since Dec. of 2011 Point of Entry had won 8 of 10 races, five of which were grade 1’s not to mention the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap this year when he beat Dubai World Champion Animal Kingdom.
Speaking of Animal Kingdom, it was his 2012 campaign that may have set the precedent for Shug McGaughey to try and go into the Breeders Cup cold. Last year Animal Kingdom was sidelined for most of the racing season when he injured his shoulder. Trainer Graham Motion did an excellent job in getting Animal Kingdom back in ‘game shape’, as the 2011 Derby winner ran in the Breeders Cup Mile, without running in a prep race. Animal Kingdom nearly pulled off a huge upset when he ran out of real estate in trying to catch the winner and eventual Horse of the Year, Wise Dan.
If Point Of Entry is going to win, he will have to dethrone last year’s winner Little Mike and 10 others entered including The Fugue; a British bred filly who should go off as the favorite. The Breeders’ Cup Turf is the ninth race of the 12 race card at Santa Anita. Post time is scheduled for 5:22 EST