Originally created 06/09/01

Baffert's brat is favored in the Belmont



NEW YORK -- Bob Baffert thinks Point Given will get better with age. By then, the trainer's nerves could be shot.

"Anybody can train Point Given," Baffert said of the Preakness winner and Belmont Stakes favorite. "Not if you have a heart condition, though."

The strapping chestnut colt, who will oppose eight other 3-year-olds, including Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, on Saturday, can quicken the heart in the afternoon. He can cause heartburn in the morning.

He's gotten loose a couple of times at Santa Anita. He reared and unseated exercise rider Pepe Aragon the morning of his disappointing fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He reared several times, but did not unseat Aragon, while on the way to the track the day before his Preakness win.

Before Point Given got his first look at the Belmont Park track Thursday morning, he reared in the barn, but Aragon managed to dismount before it happened. The colt then behaved himself on the way to the track for a gallop and on the way back to the barn, and he was a model of deportment for his final gallop Friday.

"He needs very high maintenance," Baffert said. "'He's accident-prone because of his antics."

Point Given has escaped serious injury, but he did cut his head while playing in his stall last week at Churchill Downs. He returned to that track after the Preakness to prepare for the Belmont.

"This horse has aged me 10 years," the 48-year-old, white-haired Baffert said. "He's a fun-loving horse, a big kid. He never gives you a chance to take a breath. He keeps you on your toes. When he's getting ready to run, that's when he does that stuff. He's just having fun, but it's hard on us."

Knowing what Point Given had done and what he has the potential to do, however, make the nervous mornings easier to take.

The fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby is the only time the son of Thunder Gulch, the 1995 Derby and Belmont winner, has finished worse than second in 10 starts. Last year, he won a maiden race, the Kentucky Juvenile Cup and the Grade I Hollywood Futurity, and was second in a maiden race and the Grade I Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. This year, in two starts before the Derby, he won the San Felipe and the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

Baffert said Point Given, ridden by Gary Stevens, was too close to a lightning pace in the Derby.

"In the Preakness, he let the horse decide his own pace, get into his stride," Baffert said. "I think he'll do the same thing in the Belmont."

This will be Baffert's fifth Belmont, and in two of them he watched Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) finish second in bids to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.

Should Point Given win, he would be the first Preakness winner to win the Belmont since Tabasco Cat in 1994.

A victory by Monarchos would make him the first Kentucky Derby winner to win the Belmont since Thunder Gulch in 1995.

"Monarchos is a very good horse," Baffert said of the gray colt who ran the second-fastest of 127 Derbies, but finished sixth in the Preakness. "His Derby was awesome."

Monarchos' time of 1:59 4/5 for the 1 1/4 miles was second only to the 1:59 2/5 posted by Secretariat in 1973.

The Derby winner will be ridden by Jorge Chavez from the No. 5. post position. Point Given will start from the No. 9 post, marking the third straight time he has started on the outside (No. 17 in the Derby and No. 11 in the Preakness). Monarchos won the Derby from No. 16.

Two other Belmont starters will have run in all three Triple Crown races - A P Valentine (seventh in the Derby, second in the Preakness) and Dollar Bill (15th, fourth). Also in the field are Invisible Ink, second in the Derby; Thunder Blitz, fourth in the Derby; and front-running Balto Star, 14th in the Derby.

Newcomers to the Triple Crown are Buckle Down Ben, a stakes winner as a 2-year-old, but not this year; and Dr Greenfield, an Irish-bred winner of three of four starts in England, who will be making his U.S. debut.

There have been nine Belmont winners bred outside the United States. The last foreign-based horse to win the Belmont was Go And Go in 1990.

133rd Belmont Stakes Lineup

A P Valentine

Post position: 8

Morning line odds: 5-1

Sire: A.P. Indy

Dam: Twenty Eight Carat (by Alydar)

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Trainer: Nick Zito

Owner: Ol Memorial Stable and Michael Tabor

Comment: Preakness runner-up improving and might give Zito first Belmont win in 11 chances

Balto Star

Post position: 2

Morning line odds: 15-1

Sire: Glitterman

Dam: Miss Livi

Jockey: Chris McCarron

Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher

Owner: Anstu Stables

Comment: He'll be on the lead, but we'll bet not for very long.

Buckle Down Ben

Post position: 6

Morning line odds: 30-1

Sire: Devil His Due

Dam: Flying Hill

Jockey: Corey Nakatani

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: Michael Tabor

Comment: Lukas is back in the Triple Crown. With this horse, why?

Dollar Bill

Post position: 3

Morning line odds: 6-1

Sire: Peaks and Valleys

Dam: Saratoga Dame

Jockey: Pat Day

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Gary and Mary West

Comment: Has had lots of problems. Is it bad luck, or is it because he's not athletic enough to stay out of trouble?

Dr Greenfield

Post position: 7

Morning line odds: 30-1

Sire: Dr Devious

Dam: Memory Green

Jockey: Edgar Prado

Trainer: Gerald Butler

Owner: Team Valor

Comment: European import won on all-weather surface in England last year. Distance not a concern, but hasn't faced this kind overseas.

Invisible Ink

Post position: 1

Morning line odds: 8-1

Sire: Thunder Gulch

Dam: Conquistress

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher

Owner: Peachtree Stable

Comment: Skipped Preakness to fire best shot here. Distance shouldn't be problem for Derby runner-up.

Monarchos

Post position: 5

Morning line odds: 5-2

Sire: Maria's Mon

Dam: Regal Band

Jockey: Jorge Chavez

Trainer: John T. Ward Jr.

Owner: John C. Oxley

Comment: He'll excuse his Derby trip on the track, but even Ward wonders whether he'll get the distance.

Point Given

Post position: 9

Morning line odds: 8-5

Sire: Thunder Gulch

Dam: Turko's Turn

Jockey: Gary Stevens

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: The Thoroughbred Corp.

Comment: Impressive at Preakness. Stevens needs to make sure he doesn't leave him too much to do down the stretch.

Thunder Blitz

Post position: 4

Morning line odds: 10-1

Sire: Holy Bull

Dam: Rasant

Jockey: Jerry Bailey

Trainer: Joseph F. Orseno

Owner: Stronach Stables

Comment: He's fresh, he's talented, he's bred to go long, and he's going to be dangerous.