Point Given wins Belmont by 12¼ lengths
NEW YORK -- Point Given was a dud in the Kentucky Derby but dynamite in the Belmont Stakes, winning a bittersweet victory for jockey Gary Stevens and trainer Bob Baffert.
The strapping chestnut colt was all business on this sunny Saturday, adding the Belmont to his Preakness win with a 12¼-length victory over A P Valentine as Kentucky Derby champion Monarchos straggled home third.
"I'm always going to be bittersweet about both victories without the Kentucky Derby," said Stevens. "But I'm not going to be greedy. I feel like he is a champion and should have 'Triple Crown' next to his name."
After the race, Stevens pointed heavenward and dedicated the victory to his longtime friend, fellow jockey Chris Antley, who died of a drug overdose last year.
Baffert, who twice missed training a Triple Crown champion when Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998 both finished second in the Belmont, said he knew Point Given was special.
"It was not his day Derby day, but we're not going to look back. We've enjoyed these past two races," Baffert said.
A few minutes later, however, the white-haired trainer said: "I had mixed emotions, still thinking about the Kentucky Derby."
Then Baffert, who won the Belmont for the first time in five tries, joked: "This is the easiest mile-and-half race I've ever been involved in."
Point Given was spectacular.
The son of 1995 Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch was never far out of contention. With a mile to go, Stevens had him third behind Balto Star and Buckle Down Ben.
Point Given was still behind those two at the half-mile pole and going into the final turn.
Coming out of the turn with a quarter-mile to go, Point Given was in the lead, and the 133rd Belmont was over.
As Point Given charged through the stretch, a crowd of 73,857 -- the fourth-largest ever for a Belmont Stakes -- paid tribute to his scintillating performance.
Former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) were among those who praised Baffert's victory.
"It was a trainer's triumph beyond all doubt," said the former president, who spent some time with Baffert before the race.
Point Given's margin was the seventh largest in Belmont history. His time of 2 minutes, 26 2/5 seconds equaled the third-fastest running in the race's history.
"This colt may have taken it to a new level," Stevens said. "He's big, he's strong and he's agile."
A P Valentine, the Preakness runnerup, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Monarchos in giving trainer Nick Zito his fifth second-place finish in 11 Belmonts. Zito, who has won twice in the Kentucky Derby and once in the Preakness, has yet to win in the Belmont.
Point Given, who was favored in all three Triple Crown races, paid $4.70, $3.70 and $3 in earning $600,000 for the Thoroughbred Corp. of Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia.
"He could have easily fired me after the first race," Baffert said.
"I'm tickled to death," said the prince, who attended the Derby but was not present for Point Given's Preakness win.
Right after the race, the prince gave his colt two big kisses on the nose -- a nose the colt certainly didn't need to decide matters on this day.
The victory gave Point Given a record of seven victories and three seconds in 11 career starts and earnings of $2,468,500.
A P Valentine, ridden by Victor Espinoza, paid $5 and $3, while Monarchos, ridden by Jorge Chavez, returned $4.20
Completing the order of finish after Monarchos were Dollar Bill, Invisible Ink, Thunder Blitz, Buckle Down Ben, Balto Star and Dr Greenfield.
Dr Greenfield delayed the start for a couple of minutes when he refused to enter the gate. Edgar Prado dismounted and the Irish-bred, English-based colt, making his U.S. debut, was backed into the gate.
A P Valentine and Dollar Bill also ran in all three Triple Crown races. A P Valentine was seventh in the Derby before his runnerup finish in the Preakness. Dollar Bill was 15th in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness.
"We ran into a monster," said Zito, who certainly does not have to second-guess himself because of Point Given's runaway margin.
"The winner ran an over-the-top race and I congratulate him," said John Ward, trainer of Monarchos. "Our horse ran his race and I think we'll see the other guy down the road."
Point Given was the first horse to fail in the Derby then win the Preakness and Belmont since Tabasco Cat did it in 1994. Thunder Gulch became the 12th Belmont winner to sire at least one winner of the race.
Asked his plans for Point Given, a smiling Baffert said: "I'm going to take him back to Kentucky and try to find a padded cell."
Point Given has often given his trainer a case of the jitters in the morning by rearing up and unseating his exercise rider and sometimes getting loose.
"When he's getting ready to run, that's when he does that stuff," Baffert had said before the race."
Point Given certainly was ready to run Saturday.