Hello Don Julio waves goodbye to the competition to win Point of Entry
by NYRA Press Office
Hello Don Julio delivered as the even-money favorite on Sunday, kicking clear to a 1 ¾-length victory in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Point of Entry for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on the Widener turf at Belmont Park.
Owned and trained by Michael Dilger, Hello Don Julio broke well under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who was content to let Just Howard go by on the outside to lead the field of six through an opening quarter-mile in 24.45 seconds. Velazquez and Hello Don Julio kept within striking range on the backstretch as the half went in 50.48. Velazquez let his charge pick up the pace and easily took over in the final turn. He outran a brief challenge at the top of the stretch from Postulation, cruising to his second straight stakes win.
The final time was 2:31.53 over the course labeled as soft. The 6-year-old gelding by Afleet Alex returned $4.20 for a $2 win wager.
"I let my horse relax where he was comfortable and by the time we got to the stretch he got into the bridle and I let him do his thing," said Velazquez. "I was very proud of him. He's got a nice cruising speed, so I just let him get into a good rhythm and left him alone and he kept running down the lane. He was going good the whole way."
The Point of Entry was the fifth 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 that comeback effort with a pair of 1 3/8-mile optional claiming races on the grass this summer, including a close runner-up finish to Call Provision on July 21. He earned his first career stakes win last time out, posting a three-quarter-length victory in the Laurel Turf Cup on September 22.
"Another spectacular ride from Johnny," said Dilger. "I'm so happy for the horse. He's such a consistent runner and has been his entire career. Johnny really worked out a dream trip. He didn't have the lead, but was stalking comfortably and he timed the move to go to the front at the right time. He's worked out a couple of nice trips in his last two races and it's very encouraging going forward from here."
Sunday's victory improved Hello Don Julio's record to 6-4-1 from 18 career starts for lifetime earnings of $428,384.
Postulation finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Patterson Cross in third, followed by Just Howard, Mr Maybe, and Im the Captain Now. Tizzarunner was scratched, as was main track-only entrant Secret Passage.