ELMONT, N.Y. – A soft turf course and 1 1/2 miles proved no hurdle for Hello Don Julio in the Laurel Turf Cup last month. Thus, owner-trainer Michael Dilger has no problem giving the 6-year-old gelding the opportunity to handle those same conditions again in Sunday’s $100,000 Point of Entry Stakes at Belmont Park.
As an added bonus, Hello Don Julio looms the primary speed in the field of seven that would run on the turf. Secret Passage was entered only if the race is moved to the main track.
Hello Don Julio finished seventh, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes here in June. He became the fifth horse out of that race to subsequently win a stakes race when he took the Laurel Turf Cup. Ridden by Channing Hill at Laurel, Hello Don Julio sparred on the lead with Final Copy for the opening 1 1/4 miles before pulling away late from that rival and holding Cooptado at bay to win by three-quarters of a length.
“He showed us he was able to step up to a mile and a half, which he had never done before,” Dilger said. “He also seemed to handle the softer going that day as well, two things we might not have been fully sure of before that race.”
On paper, Hello Don Julio looks like he could have the lead to himself in the Point of Entry under John Velazquez.
“He just has a high cruising speed,” Dilger said. “It always puts him on or close to the pace, but he doesn’t need to have it. In his last race, he was quite happy to be second on the rail with a horse on his outside and not get overly upset about it.”
Patterson Cross looks like the main competition to Hello Don Julio. He is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer. Last year, he lost three graded stakes at Gulfstream Park by a combined margin of 1 1/2 lengths.
Hello Don Julio, by Afleet Alex
Last 3 Beyers: 98-100-100
◗ Wheels back 22 days after winning the Laurel Turf Cup and has run well on similar short rest in the past.
“He’s a feel-good horse,” Dilger said. “He lets you know when he’s doing well and ready to run.”
◗ Velazquez, a two-time winner on this gelding, is back aboard for the first time in five races.
Patterson Cross, by Arch
Last 3 Beyers: 95-98-99
◗ Drops out of the Grade 1 Northern Dancer where he was beaten just 1 1/4 lengths.
◗ Finished only three-quarters of a length behind Hello Don Julio when those two were second and fourth in 1 5/8-mile allowance at Saratoga. Rocketry, third in that race, came back to win the Temperence Hill Stakes.
Just Howard, by English Channel
Last 3 Beyers: 63-90-97
◗ A Grade 3 winner on turf, he has proven capable over soft ground, but must prove adept at this marathon distance.
◗ Picks up Irad Ortiz Jr. for trainer Graham Motion, who entered the weekend 0-5-2 from 16 starters at meet.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
Visit DRF.com for additional news, notes, wagering information, and more.