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Animal Kingdom, Point of Entry set to clash in GP Turf

Animal Kingdom is prepping for the Dubai World Cup (Cecila Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com)
The Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf on February 9 is shaping up to be a hot early-season clash, with champion Animal Kingdom and multiple Grade 1 star Point of Entry both confirmed to line up in the 1 1/8-mile affair.

On Friday, Animal Kingdom toured a half-mile in :54 around the "dogs" on the firm Palm Meadows turf course.

The 2011 Kentucky Derby hero just returned from injury to finish a terrific, if troubled, second to Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan in the November 3 Breeders' Cup Mile.

The Gulfstream Park Turf will mark his final start in the United States. Animal Kingdom is using it as his tune-up for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup over the Tapeta at Meydan on March 30. The Leroidesanimaux colt is then expected to ship to England, with a potential Royal Ascot appearance in June, before retiring to stud at Arrowfield in Australia.

Point of Entry could also use the Gulfstream Park Turf as a springboard to Dubai. Most recently a tough-luck runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Turf, the 1 1/2-mile specialist is under consideration for the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night.

Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Point of Entry developed into a turf monster this season, with consecutive Grade 1 victories in the Man o' War, Sword Dancer and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

"He's new to me, because I never had a horse as good as him that wants to run long on the grass," said McGaughey, best known for such dirt stars as Easy Goer, Personal Ensign, Inside Information and Heavenly Prize.

"I never won the Man o'War, I never won the Sword Dancer, I never won the Turf Classic, so he opened up a lot of doors for me that's been fun to participate in."

A five-race winning streak was snapped in the Breeders' Cup Turf, when he lacked running room before launching a strong late bid to miss catching Little Mike by a half-length. The defeat likely cost Point of Entry the Eclipse Award for champion turf male and ended any speculation about a Horse of the Year title.

Point of Entry could use the GP Turf as a tune-up for the Dubai Sheema Classic (NYRA/Adam Coglianese)
"There'll always be disappointment. It's just the way it is. That's why they line them up. He ran a strong race," McGaughey said.

Point of Entry is now back in training at Payson Park. His Dubai status hinges on how he comes out of the Gulfstream Park Turf.

"It could be on the radar. It's penciled in. It's something I'm thinking about," McGaughey said of the Sheema Classic.

Point of Entry would be the first McGaughey-trained horse to run in Dubai, but his trainer has no qualms about making the long ship.

"Our goal is for the Breeders' Cup next year, so we'll have plenty of time if he does make it to Dubai," he said.

Point of Entry tops an unusually strong group of McGaughey-trained turf runners, including Grade 1 winner Data Link, multiple Grade 2 winner Boisterous and a very promising filly, Abaco.

Data Link won an allowance race at Gulfstream early last season before going on to win the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland in April. The son of War Front has won two Grade 2 races this year, including the Monmouth Stakes in June and the Citation Handicap at Hollywood on November 23.

"He had a couple weeks off. He's about ready to start back training. We'll probably point him to the Canadian (Turf, a Grade 3 on February 23) down here," McGaughey said.

Boisterous had captured the Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont and the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, both for the second straight year, before finishing second in the Grade 3 River City at Churchill last time out.

McGaughey said he hasn't yet set a schedule for the son of Distorted Humor, but he doesn't expect any problems keeping his turf stars apart.

"I'm not worried about that. There are enough races around for all of them," he said.

Abaco, who captured her fourth straight race in a turf allowance for fillies and mares at Gulfstream on December 9, is likely to start next in the Grade 3 Suwannee River on February 9.

The four-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway, who had always shown McGaughey a lot of promise, didn't break her maiden until her ninth start on July 26 at Saratoga, but she hasn't lost since that day.

"A lot of times you'll see a horse keep knocking on the door and once they win, they keep winning. We always felt like she was OK."

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