by NYRA Press Office
Hello Don Julio leads a field of eight on tap for the inaugural running of the $100,000 Point of Entry for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on the Widener turf on Sunday at Belmont Park.
Owned and trained by Michael Dilger, the 6-year-old Afleet Alex gelding registered a three-quarter-length win last time out in the Laurel Turf Cup, fending off an early challenger over a yielding turf course for his first stakes victory on September 22.
It was the fourth start of the year for Hello Don Julio, who returned from an eight-month layoff this spring to finish seventh in the Grade 1 Manhattan, beaten just 1 ¼ lengths. He followed the Manhattan with a pair 1 3/8-mile optional claiming races on the grass this summer, including a close runner-up finish to Call Provision on July 21, prior to his bid at Laurel Park this fall.
"He likes to settle and he has a high cruising speed, which usually means he's on or close to the pace," said Dilger. "We were very happy to see him relax like he did at Laurel with a horse to his outside. He didn't seem to be bothered having company on the front end."
Purchased as a yearling by Dilger, Hello Don Julio didn't debut until his 4-year-old year in March 2016 and has gone on to amass a record of 5-4-1 from 17 career starts with wins ranging in distance from one to 1 ½ miles.
"He showed a lot at 2 and it was unfortunate that we didn't get him to the races, but I think for that reason, we were happy to put the time and effort into getting him back and thankfully, he's paid us back," Dilger said. "As he's gotten older, he's certainly learned to relax a little bit more. In prior years, I didn't think he was quite a mile-and-a-half horse, but now it seems to be well within his reach.
"We really learned a lot from his last race," he added. "Part of it was seeing him relax and get that extra furlong to be able to win at a mile and a half. Also, it was yielding that day at Laurel, and we found out at that time he was able to cope with the soft turf as well."
Hello Don Julio will have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez from post 5.
Multiple graded stakes-placed Patterson Cross will look to improve on his fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer on September 15 at Woodbine. Patterson Cross, a 5-year-old son of Arch trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, broke from the outside post and closed late to finish 1 ¼ lengths behind Johnny Bear.
Patterson Cross, owned by James Karp and James Patterson, will be ridden by Joel Rosario from post 2.
Runnymede Racing's Postulation will make his second start for the Michael Matz barn, following a third-place finish in the Laurel Turf Cup. Previously trained by Edward Graham, the Harlan's Holiday gelding won the 2017 Grade 3 American St. Leger and finished a close second that year in the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup.
Postulation will leave from the rail with jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. aboard.
Also entered in the Point of Entry are Im the Captain Now, a 1 ¼-length allowance winner over soft ground on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course; Mr Maybe, exiting a win in a one-mile claiming race on September 27; Tizzarunner, 10th in the Laurel Turf Cup last time out; and Just Howard, beaten favorite in the Find on September 29 at Laurel. Secret Passage, exiting a 1 ¼-length optional-claiming win on September 23, is entered for the main track only.