Point Given first got my attention last year in the 1 1/16-mile Champagne Stakes (gr. I), when he was part of a torrid pace that hung up fractions of :45.02 for a half-mile and 1:09.55 for the opening six furlongs. Shrugging off the toll that early effort should have taken, Point Given put up a good fight when A P Valentine rallied along the inside to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
Considering that trainer Bob Baffert told jockey Kent Desormeaux to take Point Given off the lead in the Champagne, it's not surprising there was a change of riders to Gary Stevens for his next race, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Point Given drew the rail, and the big colt was buried in the early going, running 10th, then was shuffled back to last going into the far turn. But when Stevens got Point Given in gear, he streaked to the wire in sensational fashion, making up nearly seven lengths in the final furlong, only to lose by a nose to Macho Uno. Those few inches were the difference in year-end voting for an Eclipse Award, which went to the now-sidelined Juvenile winner.
This year, Point Given has matured into a colt with extraordinary versatility and power. He rallied effortlessly from midpack to take the lead in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) in his first start of 2001, drawing off by 2 1/4 lengths. Most recently, in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 7, Point Given turned in a performance that almost certainly will land him the role of the favorite for the 127th running of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
Breaking from the rail in a six-horse field, Point Given was nudged up to contend for the lead at the outset by Stevens, who is savvy enough to know that bad things can happen to betting favorites who get trapped along the rail behind horses and have every jockey in the race trying to keep them there.
It was obvious that Point Given could have gone to the lead at any time during the nine furlongs of the Santa Anita Derby, but Stevens waited until the far turn to let him go. The acceleration was impressive, and there appeared to be more than a little left in the tank when Point Given crossed the wire 5 1/2 lengths in front after being clocked in 1:47.77 on a track hit early in the day by rain.
Converted to fifths of a second, Point Given's final time of 1:473:5 ties for the fifth-fastest in the 63 runnings of the Santa Anita Derby, behind the 1:47 recorded by Lucky Debonair in 1965, Sham in 1973, and Indian Charlie in 1998; and the 1:472:5 by Hill Rise in 1964.
Versatility may come naturally to Point Given, whose sire, Thunder Gulch, was quick enough to win going six furlongs at two and tough enough to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) during his championship 3-year-old season. Point Given's grandsire, Gulch (by Mr. Prospector), was versatility personified. He won his first five starts as a 2-year-old, including the Hopeful (gr. I) and Futurity (gr. I) Stakes, then lost the Eclipse in his final two starts, the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, after going to California. He raced in each Triple Crown race (his best finish coming with a third in the Belmont), but also beat older horses in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). Gulch won the Met Mile again the next year and became champion sprinter with a victory in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
And let's not forget Eclipse Award winner Turkoman, Point Given's broodmare sire. He was versatile enough to finish second to eventual sprint champion Groovy in the seven-furlong Forego Handicap (gr. I) only one month before winning the 10-furlong Marlboro Cup Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont in 1986.
With champions at sprint and classic distances on each side of his pedigree, it's no wonder Point Given has shown a dual personality of speed and stretch-running ability.