Point Given Finally Sprouts Wings

With Point Given being inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday, I am reprinting my recap of the 2001 Belmont Stakes.

It was a day of princes, presidents, and Pegasus.

With Belmont Park rocking from the surge of electricity generated by the presence of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Point Given finally sprouted the wings his owner, Prince Ahmed Salman, trainer Bob Baffert, and jockey Gary Stevens had envisioned all along.

It was supposed to have happened in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), carrying the towering chestnut to the first Triple Crown sweep since Affirmed in 1978. But Point Given was grounded the first Saturday in May by a variety of reasons. He's tried his best to get everyone to forget that day, but he's gone about it the wrong way.

By winning the Preakness (gr. I) with relative ease and coming back to annihilate his opponents by 12 1/4 lengths in the 133rd Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 9, the colt has only called more attention to that dark day in May for Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp. The more he dominates his opponents, the larger the Derby defeat will loom in the history books and in the minds of the prince, Baffert, and Stevens, who are still trying to come to terms with it.

Even following Point Given's spectacular performance in the Belmont, they continued to ponder what went wrong in Kentucky. And it seems apparent that the more the colt accomplishes, the more they are doomed to the lifelong curse of what might have been, just as the connections of Native Dancer were nearly a half century ago. They now know they were right in their lofty expectations, and as a result, each subsequent Herculean effort by Point Given has brought a bittersweet aftermath.

"The Derby defeat is going to be disappointing forever, knowing that racing probably was deprived of a Triple Crown winner," Stevens said.

And that comment was made more than a week before the Belmont. As darkness fell on Belmont Day, an emotional Stevens left the track, still carrying that faded image of the Triple Crown in his mind. "It's not for myself; it's for the prince," said Stevens, whom Salman called his "close friend," and who holds a "very soft spot" in the prince's heart. "You have to understand," Stevens added, "the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate for the prince, and I really wanted it for him."

But Triple Crown or no Triple Crown, it was a day to remember, as 73,857 fans poured through the gates, a new attendance record for a non-Triple Crown Belmont Stakes. And when it was over, the talk was not of opportunities lost, but of a magnificent Thoroughbred who left Belmont Park awash with a flood of memories that brought back visions of Secretariat and Forego, and other superstars who have jolted the great track.

Abraham Lincoln once told the nation in regard to the Civil War, "I am not concerned that you have fallen. I am concerned that you arise." Point Given arose from the depths of the Derby like the aforementioned winged Pegasus and stamped his name in the history books with one of the most dominating performances in years.

The son of Thunder Gulch, known around the barn as the Big Red Train and T-Rex, not only is trying to obliterate the Kentucky Derby debacle from everyone's mind with his extraordinary speed, power, and grace, he's also attempting diversionary tactics with his mischievous behavior. He rears straight up without warning, and manages to inflict more wounds on his massive body than an 8-year-old boy crawling through a briar patch.

A little over a week before the Belmont, the colt, whom Baffert said has aged him 10 years, suffered a cut over his eye after "trying to kill himself" in his stall at Churchill Downs. After being stitched up, he was tranquilized, and soon after, began acting colicky. Baffert had Point Given's stomach lubricated and walked him for an hour. Afraid that eating hay might create gas, Baffert removed his hay rack for the night and left some alfalfa in the corner of his stall. At 12:30 a.m., the grooms heard a horse "screaming around the barn area." It seemed Point Given had gotten so hungry, he was trying to reach a few pieces of hay on the floor outside his stall. He managed to get his knee and head under the webbing, and when he came up, he broke the snaps on the wall, bending one of the screw eyes. As he was getting to his feet with the webbing now gone, he rubbed against the screw eye, causing a long gash on the right side of his body. After a few seconds of freedom, he was caught by the grooms.

At Santa Anita in April, the colt threw his exercise rider on the track and ran through the stable area without a bridle, charging right past The Thoroughbred Corp.'s racing manager, Richard Mulhall, who was standing by the rail drinking coffee. Such is life with Point Given. "He never gives you a chance to take a breath and relax," Baffert said. "He's like a big playful kid and you have to watch him."

Although there was no Triple Crown at stake this year, the Belmont still was creating interest as the rubber match between Point Given and Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, and also featured Derby and Preakness runners-up Invisible Ink and A P Valentine, respectively.

While Monarchos was sent to Belmont Park a few days after the Preakness, Point Given didn't ship until the Wednesday before the race. After arriving at JFK International Airport at 9:30 a.m., the big chestnut stepped onto the ramp leading down to the van and let out a loud whinny, as if he were announcing his arrival. Exercise rider Pepe Aragon, standing alongside the ramp, said, "If he gets a good trip, they'll never beat him."

Stevens and Baffert also were confident the 1 1/2-mile Belmont would be the stage for Point Given's greatest performance. "Bob and I are really expecting him to put on a show," Stevens said a week before the race.

Awaiting Point Given was trainer John Terranova, in whose barn he would stay, as he had done the previous fall for the Champagne Stakes (gr. I). "I'm padding the walls," Terranova joked the previous morning. On his first day to the track, as Point Given prepared to go out, Terranova might have wished he weren't kidding after the colt reared up in the barn, causing Aragon to dismount. For the two mornings Point Given went to the track, photographers and cameramen lined up in preparation for any possible antics. The atmosphere can best be described as a NASCAR crowd waiting for the crash. But it never happened. Equipped with a lip cord for better control, Point Given was a perfect gentleman going to and from the track.

The key to Point Given is not allowing him time to think about doing something wild. As he walked back to the barn that first morning, Baffert yelled to Aragon and assistant Jim Barnes on the pony, "Keep him going, keep him going." As he came off the track, photographers began to gather at the gap, and Baffert, watching from the trainer's stand, said to no one in particular, but directing his comment to Aragon and Barnes, "Pretend you're a New York City taxi driver. Just run 'em down." Finally, as Point Given walked calmly into the barn, Baffert let out a sigh of relief. "OK, we got him back in the corral," he said.

In addition to the first two finishers of the Derby and Preakness, the Belmont field also included the Derby and Preakness fourth-place finishers, Thunder Blitz and Dollar Bill, respectively, in addition to Balto Star, Buckle Down Ben, and the English import Dr Greenfield, whose Team Valor syndicate members all wore stethoscopes around their necks on the day of the race.

Belmont morning arrived with blue, sunny skies and a slight chill in the air. The majority of the nine Belmont starters all spent a quiet morning in the shed. One of the exceptions was A P Valentine, who went out for a light jog the wrong way. John Ward, trainer of Monarchos, was feeling better about the race after being given a sign that morning from his gray colt. The day before, Ward had been looking at a photo of Monarchos hanging on his wall, taken after his victory in the Florida Derby (gr. I). Ward liked this photo because of the "keen look" in Monarchos' eye.

"I couldn't figure out this week what it was I didn't like about the horse," he said. "Then I realized it was that I haven't seen that shiny look. He had more of a stress look across his face. Late yesterday morning, he yawned and just laid there. And then this morning, he had that same confident look in his eye he had in the photo, which made me feel a lot better."

Another confident trainer was Dallas Stewart, who was just hoping the hard-luck Dollar Bill finally would get a clean trip. While walking the shed, Dollar Bill stopped and looked right at Stewart. The trainer reached into his pocket, took out a handful of change, and shook it. "Hey, I don't want no more change," he said to the horse. "I want the whole dollar today."

Some of the others had their game face on. Dr Greenfield took a bite out of trainer Gerard Butler's arm, and Thunder Blitz kicked the wall of the barn while walking the shed. "I was holding my breath watching him walk back to his stall," trainer Joe Orseno said.

At D. Wayne Lukas' barn, the Hall of Fame trainer was hoping Buckle Down Ben would give him his second straight longshot victory in the Belmont. "If we pull this off today, it'll get pretty quiet up in that press box," he said. "I heard that last year you could hear a pin drop."

If there was an omen of things to come, it occurred the day before the race when a cast member of the Broadway show Les Miserables performed on the track apron, singing the show's hit song, "On My Own." The next day, Point Given would give new meaning to those words.

Sent off the 6-5 favorite, Point Given broke from the outside post, as he had done in the Derby and Preakness. Monarchos and A P Valentine were 5-1. The start was delayed when Dr Greenfield went into a frenzy behind the gate. After a clean break, Stevens put Point Given right up near the pace in third, about two lengths behind pacesetting Balto Star and the tracking Buckle Down Ben. Victor Espinoza was clocking Point Given while aboard A P Valentine, with Monarchos in seventh, but only seven lengths off the pace. After a half in :48, Point Given went his next two quarters in under :24 to reach the mile marker in a brisk 1:35.56. It was obvious at this point the big chestnut was in complete control. "He was pretty much galloping all the way to the quarter pole," Stevens said.

Point Given disposed of the two leaders under no encouragement at all from Stevens, who gave a peek back over his right shoulder. A P Valentine, who had to be pushed hard to keep up, moved up to challenge around the five-sixteenths pole, but it was all Point Given, who drew off with every stride. Despite the domination, Stevens still hit him a dozen times with the whip in the stretch. "He actually was idling with me a little and I thought somebody had to be coming," he said. "I didn't know how far in front I was at the eighth pole and I didn't care. I knew he was going to get a rest afterward, and it was important for everybody to see how good he is."

Point Given kept pouring it on, completing the mile and a half in 2:26.56 (2:26 2/5), which equaled the fourth-fastest Belmont ever. A P Valentine dug in gamely and held off Monarchos for second by three-quarters of a length, with Dollar Bill another length back in fourth.

After suffering two heartbreaking defeats in the Belmont with Silver Charm and Real Quiet, and having Cavonnier bow a tendon and Silverbulletday run poorly, Baffert finally landed the big one in New York, where he admits he's not exactly the Big Apple's most popular visitor. "Well, I got that gorilla off my back," Baffert said immediately after the race. Earlier, he had told his son Canyon to be prepared to hear "a lot of bad things" from the fans about his father, which he did. "They didn't say anything bad about me after the race, did they?" he asked his son. "We shut 'em up."

Accompanying the joy of victory, however, came the maybes and second-guessing. "Maybe I didn't do enough after the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)," Baffert said. "Maybe I should have worked him three-quarters. Maybe I should have run him in the Wood Memorial (gr. II) over a deeper track against Monarchos."

The one thing that is etched in stone, with no maybes attached, is the magnificence of Point Given's performance. New Yorkers may have had mixed reactions regarding the human celebrities in attendance, but they couldn't help but admire this remarkable athlete.

During the post-race press conference, Baffert received a call from Barnes. After hanging up, he told Salman and Stevens, "Jimmy called. The horse is already cooled out. He's a beast."

When Point Given walked back to the test barn, A P Valentine's trainer Nick Zito was walking just ahead of him. "My horse ran his heart out again," Zito said, "but that other horse is in another zone."

Another Zito quote proved interesting. "That horse just will not go away," he said. "He keeps coming at you. He's unbelievable. No matter how many times you think you have him beat, he just keeps coming and coming."

No, he wasn't talking about Point Given. Those actually were Zito's words following the 1995 Belmont Stakes, describing Point Given's sire, Thunder Gulch, to whom Zito had run second three times -- with Suave Prospect in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Florida Derby, and Star Standard in the Belmont. So, Zito now has finished second in five major stakes, including three classics, to "The Big Red Train" and his sire, "The Little Engine That Could."

As for Point Given, his future is unlimited. He has done things his way, and despite some tough setbacks and scary moments, has emerged as one of the most imposing, brilliant, and colorful horses seen in many years.

What makes this horse so special? "He's like poetry in motion," Stevens said. "Despite his size and strength, he's like a feather that's just floating. I mean you don't even feel him hit the ground. It's like he's on a carpet of air. He's something very, very special, and I just feel graced to even be able to ride a horse like this."

John Terranova put it best when he said the morning of the Belmont, "He's an original." He might have added, just like any work of art.

67 Comments

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Slew

Steve, thank you.  You brought tears to my eyes.  I so remember that year and the Triple Crown pursuit.  

Since my only source was national TV, the Ky Derby was the first time I saw Point Given.  All of the pundits and handicappers could not praise him enough.  He would be the next god of the Triple Crown.  And then I watched the race, and couldn't figure out why everyone had been in a lather, because he looked only so-so to me, as though he couldn't be bothered to be at the race in person.

And then I watched the Preakness, and my jaw dropped.  And then the Belmont, and I was awed and totally sold.  Without any doubts, I knew Point Given was the one horse who deserved the Triple Crown.  What ever else happened, he was the best horse I had seen in over 20 years, and he will always have a top spot in my heart.  With stamina, speed, skill and attitude, he certainly deserves his place in the Hall of Fame, and I'll be thrilled to watch it tomorrow.

12 Aug 2010 6:45 PM
Nancy

Hi Steve,

Thank you for reprinting this beautiful article about Point Given.  As always, your passion for the horse shows through your wonderful descriptive writing.

A few weeks ago I had re-read Gary Stevens' book 'The Perfect Ride' in which he writes extensively about Point Given in one of the chapters, and it was very clear how very special he was.  I didn't have the pleasure of seeing any of his races.  However, your article about him rounded out his personality, character and what a tremendous athlete he was on the track. It was a heart breaker that he didn't win the Derby.  He had a great racing record though until he suffered an injury after the winning the Travers.  He had a wonderful record and won almost $4 million.  I'm hoping to find some of his races on YouTube.

Is he still alive and where does he reside?  Has he been successful at Stud?  He was huge at 17 hands - like Zenyatta.  

Thank you again for the beautiful article.

Nancy

12 Aug 2010 8:27 PM
Zookeeper

Oh! Mr. Haskin,

Your timing is perfect. I will watch also tomorrow as Point Given is given his well deserved place in the Hall of Fame. And what will make the day even more special is the fact that my beautiful Azeri will be honored also. Two great California stars that hold a very high place in my heart right next to Tiznow and Zen.

You had me in tears again as I relived the disappointment of that year's KD. Point Given had so much talent it was unbelievable that he didn't win that day. Today, I know better. But this was at the beginning of my interest in horseracing and I wasn't prepared for the realities of it. The Preakness and Belmont were vindication, but you said it so well... it only intensified the feeling of what could have been.

It is interesting to note that the people who are closest to the horse never blame him/her for a defeat. They always blame themselves. I guess that's what makes them real horse-lovers and separate them from the "fans"(?)who are, too often, less kind.

Point Given is still with us and we can visit him at Three Chimneys or follow his babies on the track. Not so with Azeri. Lost to us because of human failures. Exiled in Japan where people can't possibly love her the way we do. How my heart breaks at the thought of it. She left us one baby Valenzeri whose name was changed as if erasing her name would make us forget the tragedy of her departure for the Far East. A national treasure, a Horse of the Year, a beautiful, graceful, beloved mare... how can we not remember her and pine for her and her future babies.

Tomorrow, I will be happy for Point Given and his connections. I will be proud to see Azeri's name forever etched on the Hall of Fame and my thoughts will be with Laura De Seroux who trained her, cared for her and loved her more than any of us can imagine... and I will cry for Azeri, for Laura, for us and for could have been... a little Azeri, gracing an American track just like her dam.

12 Aug 2010 8:41 PM
ThoroGreats

Great article Steve, he was like and Easy Goer with blinkers on.

12 Aug 2010 9:11 PM
Robin from Maryland

Loved Point Given and his connections.  Congrats to all who made it into The Hall, especially jockey Randy Romero - who should have been there a long ago.  Will be watching on HRTV - took a play day from work.

12 Aug 2010 9:31 PM
2:24

Awesome.

12 Aug 2010 9:35 PM
ruffianruns

Wow, wow, wow.  I *so* love the back stories you tell.  I can see why he would age Baffert!  I aged 10 years just reading about Point Given's antics!  I also love Stevens' description of riding him - that no matter his size, he's like a feather floating.

Thanks again for bringing us such a wonderful take.

12 Aug 2010 9:39 PM
John T

Point Given was a great racehorse and I think his loss in the Derby was quite simply a young horse needing that little bit of extra time to get all the gears in operation much like Lookin At Lucky

this year who is beginning to look like the promising horse he was meant to be.

Something that will proababy interest you Steve,Juddmonte Farms

have a 2 year old named for the famed late racehorse trainer Bobby Frankel called Frankel and he will make his debut Friday evening in the 6.35 at Newmarket,England.He is by the Epsom Derby winner Galileo out of a mare called Kind,making him a half-brother to a

useful winner called Bullet Train.

12 Aug 2010 10:12 PM
Mustang5

In 2005 I saw Point Given at Three Chimneys. Mostly he ignored the visitors, but for a few moments, he put on quite a show, leaping and jumping in his stall. He's quite a sight to see.

12 Aug 2010 10:43 PM
jlp918

I was fortunate enough to witness Point Given's Belmont Stakes win in person.  Watching him come down the stretch with such power and command of the field was something I will never forget. It was a shame that Point Given's racing career was cut short, but I am glad that the horse is being honored for what he accomplished in such a brief time.

On a separate note:  What has become of Balto Star?

12 Aug 2010 10:51 PM
Zookeeper

John T,

Thank you for telling us about the colt named Frankel. I hope we find out how he does. How fitting that Juddmonte should name a horse after their favorite trainer here in America. They had so much success with their horses in his care.

12 Aug 2010 10:54 PM
Don in Massachusetts

Thanks for the great article on the new Hall of Famer, Point Given.

I have had the pleasure of spending a great deal of time with him this spring at the Three Chimneys' Open House, and I took many photos of the champ.

Because of Point Given's place in my heart, I have travelled to Saratoga to particpate in his enrollment in immoratlity, and it is the only reason why I am here this weekend.

Another favorite horse of mine, and one I visit each and every April is Monarchos.  I am happy that Monarchos notched the second fastest Derby time after the Immortal and Great Secretariat, but somehow feel badly for Point Given and his connections, especially Gary Stevens, who really loves this horse!

Thanks for reminding us of Point Given's triumphs, Steve, and why he deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

12 Aug 2010 11:45 PM
Runfast159

What a joy to relive Point Given's Belmont.  He was probably the best 3 year old since the Bid.

The only thing that ran faster than Point Given was the time we had to enjoy him as a racehorse.  Can you imagine what he could have done at 4??

13 Aug 2010 12:05 AM
SPLITS OF 12

Steve,

Thank you for the article on Point Given. I was just visiting Kentucky, three weeks ago, and got to see PG up close, touring Three Chimneys Farm. He is an absolute beast! He and Dynaformer were the two biggest stallions on the farm. PG, looked great and seemed very relaxed and comfortable, in his life away from the racetrack.    

Your article brought back strange memories from that dark day in May. I had $200 on Point Given's  nose at 9/5. It should've been the easiest $380 profit, one could ever could make. It was also to be the start of a Triple Crown tag I had made, in January. The previous year Point Given got second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile by a nose. I knew he was the real deal from watching him in Southern California, as a two-year old, so I locked him at 50-1, to win the TC. I remember thinking the bet was genius like.  There hadn't been a winner in over twenty years and here I thought, he was the chosen one.    

I was at the Hilton Sportsbook, in Reno, Nevada, for the 2001 Kentucky Derby. What I was about to witness in the next two minutes, seemed like a total abberation.  When the field hit the turn, I stared at the big screen in complete and utter shock. It was Monarchos instaed of Point Given exploding through the stretch to record the second fastest time in the history of the Kentucky Derby. Invisible Ink follwed him up for the place at 99-1. Although Monarchos looked sharp before the race. I thought the son of Marias Mon would be no match for the great Point Given. I was wrong.

No one will ever no what happened to Point Given that day. Not you nor I, or Bob Baffert, The Prince, and all of the fans that made him 9/5 on Derby Day. It just so happens he didn't fire, for whatever reason . I don't feel it was the deep Churchill Downs dirt, or the lack of seasoning as a 3 year-old, that some handicappers believe may have been the reasons for him not firing. What probably happened was Point Given just didn't feel like running that day. The egos of his connections want to find an excuse, but there isn't one. Like an old-timer once told me at the track, he said " son if a 1,200 lb animal don't feel like running, there's not much a little 110 pound jockey is gonna do about it." Trust me if any one jockey could, I would think it would be Gary Stevens. Not even the Hall of Fame jock, could coax Point Given into running that day.

So, if you can find a positive to take from the Derby Day debacle, it would be, that he was still good enough to get 5th, running evenly around the Churchill Downs strip.  

13 Aug 2010 12:20 AM
Rainyday

To Zookeeper...Azeri has two daughters remaining in the US as well...a two year old filly by Giant's Causeway named Arienza, and a yearling by Ghostzapper. The yearling filly is selling at Keeneland in September, and Arienza is in training at Arlington. Although her departure overseas was a deep shame, there is still a chance her babies will make a mark here.

13 Aug 2010 12:35 AM
Paseana

Point Given powering down the Belmont stretch that day, widening with every stride, was something to behold, but there's another image that I took away with me from that race.  Every time I think of Point Given, the "youtube" in my head kicks immediately into gear, and it's not even a part of the race itself!

The thing I'll never forget is Point Given rounding back around the clubhouse turn in the canter-back to the winner's circle.  I was watching on a silly little TV screen at Hollywood Park...not exactly hi-def...and I thought to myself while swallowing hard that I had never seen such a brute in my life!

The musculature in his front legs and his chest in that image was just frightening!  I've seen big horses before....Rock Hard Ten and Midnight Lute come to mind....but I've never seen a horse that looked like Point Given did returning for pictures that day.  For me, it was jaw-dropping!

What a bonafide BEAST he was!

13 Aug 2010 1:22 AM
The Deacon

Point Given was argueably the best race horse the past 15 years. What a special talent, so much power and grace. No disrespect to those who may believe that Ghostzapper or Zenyatta or Invasor may have been better. Great article Steve, thanks for this trip down memory lane...........

13 Aug 2010 1:25 AM
OldDog

Thanks for reprinting that, Steve.  Not long ago, Gary Stevens was sent out to visit some "old friends" for a television piece, including Thunder Gulch and Point Given.  Gary had a poignant moment with Point Given that has stuck with me.  See it here:

www.youtube.com/watch

Some have said the Point Given doesn't belong in the HOF.  I disagree.  He is definitely in MY HOF.

Bert

13 Aug 2010 8:16 AM
Slew

Zookeeper: My favorite 3 year old colt this year (who was sidelined after his debut win-but is back in training) is Take Control, by AP Indy out of Azeri.  He looks like mama, and he runs in the style of Sea the Stars.  Final furlong-puts his head down and drills a bullet.

So thrilled both Point Given and Azeri will both be inducted today.

13 Aug 2010 8:41 AM
Smoking Baby

 Thanks for bringing that one back Steve.  Point Given was indeed a monster.  This was written only a few months before you wrote what I think is the greatest, best written racing article EVER BAR NONE.  I'm talking about Tiznow's Breeders Cup Classic.  (I still can't read that aloud to anyone without beginning to bawl)  I remember hoping that Tiznow would get Horse Of The Year but knew in my heart that Point Given probably deserved it.  Thank you so much for your work Steve.  I really enjoy reading your stuff.

13 Aug 2010 10:08 AM
Zen's Auntie

Riveting Read as Always Mr Haskin. I love the walks down memory lane with you. Point Given deserves this.

I too am sad to see Azeri leave but sharing good blood and spreading it out is good for TB's in general - Rainy thanks for the update on her 2 daughters Im glad she leaves us them - out of those two Horses?? Wow I cannot wait to see them! I'm addin the named filly to my Virtual Stable and can not wait to see her run. I will have to follow the sale now to see what happens to the little girl... ahhhh more work, I love it.

13 Aug 2010 10:54 AM
berttheclock

Last week, as my wife and I watched the beautiful Zenyatta, my wife spoke, once again, of the day at Del Mar in 2001 when we watched Baffert lead Point Given around the walking ring.  She still says, "What a magnificent horse".

One of the biggest problems bringing my wife back to Portland and taking her out to Portland Meadows to watch the live racing by PNW ponies, was trying to overcome her comment of, "But, where are the real horses?"

13 Aug 2010 10:55 AM
steve from st louis

What a game racing is!  How in the world can you explain this passionate owner lose the Derby with his once-in-a-lifetime homebred and his chance at a Triple Crown and yet just a few years later, only weeks before the Derby, buy a horse of limited ability such as War Emblem and win two legs of the Triple Crown? Crazy game.  

13 Aug 2010 11:00 AM
Oldie

OldDog, thanks for the youtube link.  I see why it stuck with you.  I then watched a replay of the 2001 Belmont.  Whew.  I am reminded of the way a mile and a half separates horses.

Steve, I join with so many others thanking you for giving us the chance to relive great moments in racing.  You are the master.

13 Aug 2010 12:01 PM
Erica

Steve,

Thanks for sharing this article with us.  I became a Point Given fan at the Breeder's Cup Juvenile.  I didn't know a thing about the colt, but he was being ridden by Gary Stevens, a fellow Idahoan and was the son of Thunder Gulch who I had followed also because of Gary.  When Point Given came storming home at the Juvenile to lose by only a nose, I was hooked.

Like all of his fans, I was devastated on Derby Day.  His romps in the Preakness and Belmont salved the wound somewhat, but we are all left with a faded "what if?" that never quite goes away.

But I think for me the more difficult "what if" is about what he would have done in the Breeders' Cup and as a 4 year old.  I don't think we had begun to see the best of Point Given by September of 2001.  But, "what ifs" are a part of horseracing and always will be.  I'm just glad I got to enjoy him for a little while.

13 Aug 2010 12:17 PM
Love 'em all!

Thank you, Mr. Haskin.  Love, love, love this story of Point Given, and I congratulate him today for an honor well-deserved.  

OldDog, thank you for sharing the YouTube of Gary Stevens visitng the old gentleman ... and others.  That was a treat.

13 Aug 2010 12:36 PM
Paseana

Splits of 12 wrote: "No one will ever no what happened to Point Given that day."

Nine years later, people are still talking about this.  It's probably one of the most mystifying and puzzling non-performances of all time.  When a great horse gets beaten when he or she isn't supposed to, there's almost always one or two pretty clear-cut reasons why, even if it's not discovered or revealed until days after (a la Secretariat's mouth abscess or Bid's safety pin), or they "just get beat" in a close, driving finish where the other horse just plain wants it more on that day (a la Paseana against Hollywood Wildcat).

At the risk of anthropomorphizing a bit, I have a different take on that race that some might find at least amusing, but still worth thinking about.

The CD track was rock-hard souped up that day.  The splits on the race were among the very fastest in Derby history, which is what makes Congaree's race in there one of the greatest Derby performances in a losing effort ever.  There's little wonder that Monarchos came from back of the pack to win by open lengths in sub-2:00 time.  The biggest indictment of the track surface that day, though, is the career toll that it took on about half the field.  Monarchos, Invisible Ink, and Thunder Blitz never saw the winner's circle again in their careers, and several of the other also-rans either never ran again, or also never won.  Point Given, Congaree, and Balto Star were really the only horses to come out of that race to have any notable career afterwards.....and Balto Star's ultimate home was going long on grass.  Here's where the anthropomorphizing comes in.....

Point Given was a 13 or 1400 pound animal trying to run on a track that was that hard and souped up.  I think, in all my great wisdom, that the track stung his feet badly, and that he was intelligent enough somehow to know what was good for him and what wasn't.  I actually suggest that he "saved himself" in that race, without any human intervention.  It's at stretch, I know, but I think it's worth considering.

It's OK everybody.  You can start laughing now! LOL!

13 Aug 2010 12:48 PM
Will W

Baffert's potentially greatest horse if injury had not prematurely sidelined him. I saw all his races. Spectacular in the Belmont and in the Haskell, his last race. Better than Silver Charm. Stevens, making a breeding promo, claimed Rock Hard Ten was second to none of the horses he rode. How could he say that with a straight face having ridden Point Given ??? Chalk it up to advertising. Much closer to the truth was Steven's recent tearful apology to Point Given while visiting him at his breeding farm in Kentucky. Yeah, he rode Point Given too close to a blistering pace and, most likely, cost him the Triple Crown.

13 Aug 2010 1:13 PM
Zookeeper

Rainyday,

You don't know the comfort you have given me in sharing the information on the two daughters Azeri gave us before she was sold for a fraction of her sentimental and historical value. I didn't know that, I only knew about Valenzeri (now Take Control). I have been so upset over the whole saga surrounding the great mare... that I've blocked almost everything after she was taken away from Laura De Seroux. Thank you so much! I'll be watching for them and Take Control. I can get over the name change of Azeri's beautiful colt but I'll never feel ok about his dam leaving this country. Never!

Sorry to be so emotional on this subject, but there are things in this sport that wound us deeply. The mere mention of Ruffian or Barbaro or Smarty's loss in the Belmont bring people to tears, for me you can also add Azeri in a foreign land, far away from us. I can only hope that her ultimate fate is better than Ferdinand's and Exceller's...  

13 Aug 2010 1:20 PM
Eric rickard

Thank you for your remembrance of Point Given. I was truly infatuated with him from his maiden race and on. I saved all of my winning bets on him until the derby. Bet all $2,400 ,  and than sat there stunned. How could he loose? It was not the money it was the fact he lost. The rest of the year with victories in the Preakness, Belmont, Haskel and Travers ; I still asked why. I met Gary Stevens and he had no answers. We will never know. He was awesome!

On a side note I won my money back plus more and took the wife to Bermuda on Point Given. Azeri was awesome too

13 Aug 2010 1:24 PM
ruffianruns

Paseana -

I will buy what you're selling!  Makes sense to me!

13 Aug 2010 1:36 PM
lexi

Steve: Just saw the race from Newmarket..Juddmonte's horse Frankel just won....

13 Aug 2010 1:43 PM
ruffianruns

Slew -

isn't Take Control the Azeri baby originally named Vallenzeri?

13 Aug 2010 2:26 PM
anna

zookeeper, you are really out of it about azeri. her forth foal is the one that she was carrying when she went to japan and she will be treated like a queen over there, since i'm pretty certain the owner of the farm where sunday silence brought her and he was treated like a king. but azeri's second foal who is a 2yr old filly named arienza by giant's causeway is in training at arlington park, since she was sold to the owners of funny moon i think and azeri's third foal by ghostzapper is in the keeneland september yearling sale next month.

13 Aug 2010 3:30 PM
Householder

Watched Baffert saddle Point Given for the Santa Anita Derby.  Man between the SA Derby and the Hollywood Futurity (Cash Call)...they continue to impact the Triple Crown races.  Baffert left us with a few "What could have beens." Real Quiet's Belmont is hard to watch.

13 Aug 2010 3:51 PM
ruffianruns

Lexi -

Thanks for the news about Frankel's win!

Does anyone know when Date With Destiny races again?  GW's only baby?

Zookeeper - my post to Slew about Take Control's original name came before your post was available to all.  Congrats on your girl Azeri making HOF.

13 Aug 2010 4:10 PM
Zookeeper

anna,

I agree, I'm out of it. Her being inducted in the Hall of Fame resurrected all the bad feelings associated with the whole story. Please forgive me and my lack of objectivity.

13 Aug 2010 4:21 PM
Plenilune

Thank you for reposting that fantastic article, Steve! I remember thinking Point Given was the next Secretariat - big, bold, red and beautiful. Maybe a little crazy, but what the heck. I also remember literally bawling after watching him lose the KY Derby, I was stunned. Yet he came back in very fine fashion to win four consecutive G1 million dollar races. Now, I visit him every year at Three Chimneys and tell him to make some more foals like Go Between, lol.

13 Aug 2010 5:26 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for the reprint on Point Given, Steve! He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame; and Bob Baffert's comments today at the induction were enlightening (how the horse was chosen for training by Baffert) and poignant (how he wishes he could re-do the 2001 Derby). I had thought Point Given was very special from the running of the BC Juvenile of 2000 forward. I have always thought that his father, Thunder Gulch, was equally special. He accomplished a lot as a three-year-old himself--winning two legs of the Triple Crown as well as the Swaps (against Da Hoss) and the Travers.

Zookeeper---I believe that most horses sold to Japan recently have had buy-back clauses in their contracts so that they can be returned to the U.S. if no longer needed for breeding overseas, in order to prevent a repeat of the Ferdinand debacle. I know I read that Silver Charm had such a clause. Maybe we could research whether Azeri has one as well.

13 Aug 2010 6:06 PM
Zookeeper

OldDog,

Thank you for posting a link to the video of Gary Stevens and Point Given. I had seen it before but I enjoyed seeing it again. His love for the horse really came through and was very touching.

There is a HRTV video about Cigar available on this website where Jerry Bailey also gets very emotional about the great champion. If you haven't seen it, it is well worth watching.

13 Aug 2010 6:24 PM
Kit J

ZK, yes I think you're emotional about a horse you loved.

Sometimes though stories get lost in translation. Because of the sad ending of a couple of horses there seems to be routine condemnation.

Sunday Silence, his foals are god like in Japan. You're lack of objectivity comes from the heart, some of the people on these blogs? Well theirs comes from a very dark place.

13 Aug 2010 6:28 PM
Nancy

OldDog - Thanks so much for the YouTube link where I was able to watch all of Point Given's races.  He was just marvelous!  He would have had a great year at four, maybe even five.  But, he is alive and sound now and enjoying life.

Paseana, You might be right, it certainly has been said that CD is punishing hard track and on the day of Derby it was punishing him.  Point Given is 17 hands and around 1200 lbs. But he did have the 17 hole which wasn't a good spot and it was quite humid.  Who knows maybe he didn't like the close contact with 16 other horses?  In the YouTube video of the Derby you will see John Velasquez on the phone with the Stewards lodging a foul against Monarchos.  When you watch the replay you will see Point Given very close to the action between Monarchos and the other horse (whose name I can't remember who at this time). It could be he didn't like that circumstance.  We will never really know.  But, he is still Great!

13 Aug 2010 6:51 PM
Zookeeper

Kit J,

Obviously it affected me a lot more than most on here. But if you substitute one or the other of today's female superstars (instead of Azeri), most people would come unglued. If they didn't I would assess that I'm with the wrong crowd.

Well, enough said. I don't want to talk about it anymore. I'm upset enough as it is.

13 Aug 2010 7:12 PM
Casey

As a kid growing up in rural Canada, we only had TV with "rabbit-ears" and no Thoroughbred tracks within reasonable distance making my early exposure to horse racing - a sport which I have since embraced as a career - very limited. But I always had a fascination the stemmed partially from watching the Triple Crown on television (along with reading every possible horse book in reach).

I will always recall my three favourite horses from that time Thunder Gulch, Real Quiet and Point Given (and of course, after watching their triumphs, naming my model horses after them). It was great to read an article that could fill in so many gaps for me of Point Given's career beyond the Triple Crown that I can now appreciate being an educated observer and fan. Thanks Mr. Haskin.

13 Aug 2010 8:07 PM
Rachel

That year's Kentucky Derby, no one was catching Monarchos.

That day belonged to the gray.

13 Aug 2010 8:15 PM
John T

Zookeeper

  The horse named for the famous late trainer Bobby Frankel,Frankel

was always travelling well in the one mile contest at Newmarket.He was never asked a serious question

and went on to win in a very impressive fashion.His main target as a 2 year old will either be the

Dewhurst Stakes back at Newmarket or the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

13 Aug 2010 8:26 PM
Kate Harper

Thank you Mr. Haskin for a wonderful rememberance of Point Given's 2001 Triple Crown series.  You are so gifted in painting with words what this sport means to people who love racing and the wonderful horses who give their all for our entertainment.

Zookeeper--you own no apologies for your feelings about Azeri.  I remember the dread I felt when Michael Paulson removed her from Laura de Seroux and gave her to Lukas.  Every time she ran after that, I held my breath, praying nothing terrible would happen to her.  I'm thankful Azeri was eventually retired in one piece and hope she has the well-earned retirement and care she so deserves for the remainder of her life.

13 Aug 2010 10:08 PM
Zookeeper

John T,

Thank you for the update on Frankel. Won at first asking! Beautiful! I wonder if Bobby saw that.  :)

13 Aug 2010 11:13 PM
EightBellesLover

Point Given was a beast. No doubting that at all. I got the honor of looking into his beautiful eyes at three chimneys.

13 Aug 2010 11:52 PM
Don in Massachusetts

In accepting Point Given's well-deserved Hall of Fame plaque, Baffert stated that this horse was the very best he ever trained, although he wished he could re-live the Kentucky Derby again!

I asked Gary Stevens, after the ceremony, which was very emotional, what it was like to ride Point Given.  His answer,like riding very fast on air!

14 Aug 2010 12:18 AM
Zookeeper

Rachel,

Poor Monarchos didn't get any appreciation from me the day he won the KD. He had defeated my California hero, the horse who was supposed to win the Triple Crown and he didn't look gray to me. By the time he crossed the finish line he was covered in dirt and mud-brown from head to toe.

It wasn't until I read "Horse of a Different Color", written by Jim Squires (his breeder) that I finally realized what I had seen that day and missed, all at the same time.

You are right... that day, nobody was gonna catch Monarchos!

14 Aug 2010 12:22 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Most of the horses we send to Japan can't speak, read or write Japanese. So not only are they saddled with learning a new language but are faced with acquiring a taste for a new cuisine also. I hear that some trainers even give them sake instead of Guiness or Bud. Yuck !!. They tried to send Mr. Ed there but he threw such a fit, using every 4-letter word in the book and then some that they let him stay here with Wilbur. It's a nice place and all of that, but when you are raised on American oats and suds the transition can be quite difficult.

14 Aug 2010 12:43 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I'm with you on that one Rachel. Who was going to beat Monarchos on that day? Maybe Secretariat. It's obvious that Point Given was great, and talented enough to win a Triple Crown, but I really don't know how he could have beaten Monarchos in that Derby.

14 Aug 2010 12:49 AM
Rowner

Knew PG was special from the start a son of TG who I followed through his career also.  After the BC I said to myself this is a Derby horse and being shocked the next year.  I think I agree with Paseana also, her description seems to fit and horses are more intelligent than we are willing to give them credit for. I was so disappointed he didn't make it to the BC again.  Glad he is finally getting his due.

14 Aug 2010 4:42 AM
PomDeTerre

I am probably in the minority here, but I really fail to see why Point Given shoud be included un the same breath as most of the HOF horses.  If this is indicative of the new voting system, then I feel it's a shame.  I'm not suggesting he wasn't a good horse, however there are many, many other humans and animals who deserve this spotlight ahead of him.  Alex Solis is just one example.  If this is how the new system is going to work, it is merely a popularity vote, and not indicative of the talents of far more deserving candidates.

14 Aug 2010 11:33 AM
Fran Loszynski

I know this may read as too Awwwww!

but with Point Given in the Hall of Fame, now Gary Stevens can stop feeling terrible when he was a superb jockey. I'm sure there were tears in his eyes because he always blamed himself for the loss of their race together. I'm sure the day Point Given heard he was going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, he winked at Gary's picture (probably on his stall windowsill) and said to himself. "Thanks Pal!"

14 Aug 2010 11:55 AM
anna

the stallions who was sold overseas was sold privately while azeri was sold at auction, and i'm pretty certain she will be treated well in japan, since her owner did pay $2,250,000 million for her and i did some research on the person who brought her and i was correct one of the people who brought sunday silence had brought azeri and he probably brought her with breeding her to deep impact the japanese triple crown winner by sunday silence. or well he took over the farm that his father had started which is the shadai stallion station and it's where war emblem and a number of other us stallions stand.

en.wikipedia.org/.../Shadai_Stallion_Station

14 Aug 2010 3:40 PM
Sandra in Lexington

Steve, thank you so much for this recap!  I visited with Point Given in April and absolutely love this stallion!  He's still as beautiful and fiery as ever!  Thanks again, Steve!  Your words always capture the perfect moments in time!

14 Aug 2010 4:17 PM
Linda in Texas

PomDeTerre

Your moniker should be Les Grapes des Sour.

I say Great for Point Given and I hope someone told him and he got an extra treat the day he

won the honor.

Sorry, Pom, but some of us disagree. And that is your right to do so also.

Every time i hear of a horse going to Japan, i lose a breath and hope to God that there are people assigned to keep watch over our

American Treasures to make sure that when they are no longer useful there, we will get them back here.

14 Aug 2010 6:44 PM
Linda in Texas

 Thank you Steve for a walk back

 to some of the best old days of

 racing with your article on

 Point Given.

 We love your way with words.

 Everything is always right,

 front and center and you leave

 nothing to speculation.

14 Aug 2010 6:53 PM
Buddy

Thanks Steve!

My take on the KD...why was Point Given chasing that unbelievable fast pace?  I said it then, and I haven't changed my mind...I think Gary Stevens will regret that ride more than any other...If Point Given stays 5 lengths off the pace...he rolls!!!

14 Aug 2010 10:40 PM
Slew

PomDeTerre: I can only assume you never watched Point Given run.  It's a shame.  As someone who was backing Congaree that year, Point Given was exhilarating to see, and left one breathless.  He does deserve his place in the HOF.  As for Alex Solis..just not this year, though with his record, I'm certainly he will eventually be elected.  How many years was Romero nominated before he was finally elected?  Quite a few.

15 Aug 2010 9:22 AM
PomDeTerre

Linda- I stated that I was probably in the minority.  No need to attack; your post has all the maturity of a 1st grader.

15 Aug 2010 12:38 PM
smarie

Thank you so much, Mr. Haskin, for this wonderful walk down memory road. I remember when Bob Baffert came to Churchill Downs with both Point Given and Congaree. Almost everyone agreed that a Baffert-trained colt would win. Congaree, who was usually in Point Given's shadow, ran a great race and went on to be a great miler. Point Given's connections must have felt the way Spectacular Bid's did after the Bid lost the Belmont. Watching Point Given romp in the Belmont was a thrill - what a magnificent racehorse he was! I too wonder what might have been had he gone on to run in the Breeder's Cup and then gone on to race at age 4. Point Given definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I hope Gary Stevens stops beating himself up about the Derby loss. We can't change the past, but we can change how we deal with it. Thank you, OldDog, for the link on YouTube for Point Given's Belmont victory. I loved what Bob Baffert said recently about Point Given, "He's like Zenyatta. He overpowered everybody. He was as close as I was going to get to Secretariat."

15 Aug 2010 1:42 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

PomDeTerre

  I agree that more jockeys should be in the Hall of Fame, including Alex Solis, but then again I think more horses should be in that aren't. Jockeys risk their lives every race of every day, and horses do also every time they race. I don't know why Solis is not in there. I don't know why more amazing horses whose lives were lost early due to illness or accidents or breakdowns on the track aren't honored. There should be more jockeys and horses entered each year. There aren't enough in there, especially with the horses.

15 Aug 2010 2:23 PM
Marisa

Thank you so much for this article. Point Given always has been and always will be my all time favorite race horse. I've been fortunate enough to go and visit him a few times at Three Chimneys and he's still just as gorgeous and powerful as ever. I wish his future children the best and that they could receive even a touch of his greatness.

15 Aug 2010 3:52 PM
txhorsefan

In trying to catch up on my reading since returning from my vacation, I'm thrilled to find this reprint of your article on Point Given.  His racing days were in the time when I paid attention only to the Triple Crown races and didn't follow racing much after they were over, but I do remember liking him at the time. However, not having the background information of those who had been following racing more closely, I wasn't aware he was such a monster.  Thank you for now providing me the chance to get to know him through your eyes, with your dedication to the details and I can appreciate him even more and enjoy his entry to the HOF.  Thanks also to the commenters who presented their points of view about Point Given also - great to learn more.  Thank you!

Celeste

txhorsefan

30 Aug 2010 8:10 PM

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