Hall of Fame 2010: Point Given

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By Mike Kane

How good was Point Given? His resume says super. Bob Baffert has an even higher opinion of the colt, the third of his trainees to join him in the Hall of Fame.

“He was just a big horse,” Baffert said. “He was the best of his generation and towered over the rest of them. He just lost the wrong one.”

That one blemish came on May 5, 2001 when the chestnut son of Thunder Gulch out of the Turkoman mare Turko’s Turn, finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. As many have learned through the years, winning the Derby can make a career. Point Given’s loss, 11 1/2 lengths behind Monarchos, who never won again, did not ruin his.

Point Given reeled off four straight Grade I victories – the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell Invitational and Travers – before being retired with a leg injury. He won nine of 13 career starts, eight of them stakes, and earned $3,968,500 for his owner and breeder the late Saudi Arabian Prince Ahmed Salman, proprietor of The Thoroughbred Corporation.

With six wins in seven starts, five of them Grade I, Point Given was voted Horse of the Year in 2001. He now stands at stud at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky.

Baffert won the Derby and Preakness in 1997 with Hall of Famer Silver Charm and took the first two legs of the Triple Crown again the following year with Real Quiet. Point Given emerged as a serious Triple Crown series prospect as a 2-year-old in 2000 with runner-up finishes in the Champagne and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a victory in the Hollywood Juvenile. Wins in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby solidified his credentials and he was sent off as the favorite in the Derby.

A fast early pace was the perfect setup for Monarchos, who turned in the second-fastest time in Derby history. Meanwhile, Point Given was a threatening presence in the second turn, but could not sustain his challenge under Gary Stevens. Baffert said a couple of factors came into play and had an impact on his colt.

“The track was very hard that day, so there was a speed bias, people were sending their horses and track records were being broken,” he said. “We sort of got caught up in a fast pace and didn’t finish. Gary came back and said, ‘I think he just wants to break and settle.’ We really didn’t know his style because we ran him in California two starts and missed some time with him. He had a hind ankle injury that he got from rearing up. It was some kind of weird deal.”

Despite his Derby loss, Point Given was the Preakness favorite and he prevailed by 2 1/4 lengths. Three weeks later, he gave Baffert his lone Belmont victory, by a whopping 12 1/4 lengths.

“He redeemed himself in the next two,” Baffert said. “The way he won the Belmont was really exciting.”

Baffert said that the colt was a dream to train.

“I didn’t have to do much with him,” Baffert said. “He was the only horse I had who actually gained weight with every race. It’s amazing. He just got bigger and bigger with every race.”

After a short hiatus, Point Given returned in the summer to win the two biggest races of the summer for 3-year-olds, the Haskell at Monmouth Park and Saratoga’s Travers.

“I wasn’t going to run him in the Haskell, but the prince wanted to run,” Baffert said. “I got him ready in two weeks. I gave him two five-eighths works and entered him. It was quick. He won that one and got really tired. That, to me, is when he showed his greatness. He was done at the quarter pole and he still won. Then we brought him up here and won the Travers and he got hurt in the Travers.”

Baffert paused for a second to reflect on the premature end of Point Given’s distinguished career.

“He was just getting good,” Baffert said. “He was like a locomotive.”