Steve Haskin's Preakness Wrapup (Cont.)

The morning before the Preakness, Point Given went out for a routine gallop. The day before, his first morning back to the track after a work on May 14, was the day the alarm light was on in the Baffert camp. Equipped with a special lip cord, Point Given was a perfect gentleman, other than giving a half-hearted attempt to rear on the horse path. That was stopped in its tracks by a crack of the whip over his shoulder by exercise rider Pepe Aragon. On the morning of May 18, however, Point Given was not wearing his lip cord. A few strides out of the barn, walking on the wood chip path, he put his foot down awkwardly, turning his ankle, which really set off the fireworks. The colt reared six or seven times. Aragon once again found himself staring at the sky, holding on to anything he could grab--reins, bridle, neck.

When someone later commented that Point Given had "gone insane again," Mulhall, standing nearby, could only laugh. "I'm getting used to all that," he said. "He's just playing. He's like a big kid. He knows exactly what he's doing when he rears. He knows just how far he can go up."

When asked how many times Point Given has reared, Aragon said, "He averages about every other day, sometimes three, four, or five times. You just deal with it. I don't even think about it. If I did, then I'd be afraid of him, and he'd sense that fear. He's really a nice, calm horse in his stall. He likes to come over and play with you."

As a yearling, Point Given was no different than any of the other horses, said Alice Chandler, who raised the son of Thunder Gulch at her Mill Ridge Farm near Lexington. "He was an average horse, slightly larger than the others," she said. "Then, all of a sudden, he started to grow...and grow. By the time he left us, he was absolutely huge. He was clean and correct, and we never even had to put a bandage on him. He had a lot of personality, and never tried to get loose. He was never any trouble until the day he left and he refused to get on the van. It was some doing trying to shove this big hunk of a horse onto the van."

After Point Given was broken and sent to Baffert, Mulhall sold the dam, Turko's Turn, for $160,000. A few days later, Baffert entered Point Given in a maiden race and told Mulhall, "You know, I think this colt can really run." A stunned Mulhall replied, "Huh? I just sold the mare. Now I gotta go see if I can get her back." Mulhall contacted the new owner and bought her back for $400,000.

Mulhall also laughed at the rumors that Point Given was dead lame. "Dead lame? He's never been lame in his life," he said. "Believe me, if there was anything wrong with him, we would have taken him home. He's absolutely no different than he was last year. He has one cracked heel, and when you have that, it's the skin that hurts, not bone. There have been a few days when he's walked out of his stall on his hind foot and kind of pointed it for about five steps. Then he's fine again. It's nothing, and it's not new."

"After the Derby, we checked him out at Rood and Riddle and everything was fine," Baffert said. "He has had a problem with a hind pastern, where he gets the cracked heels, but it's basically just cosmetic."

Overnight rains on Preakness Eve gave way to hazy skies and high humidity. A wide variety of emotions ran through the stakes barn. All was quiet with the Derby winner, as Monarchos played with his new stuffed animal--a horse which, of course, was gray. Trainer John Ward said Mouse, the lead pony, would appreciate his upcoming days off after being manhandled by Monarchos every morning.

At the opposite end of the barn, Point Given poked his head out of the stall throughout the morning, gawking at all the activity. A laid-back Congaree showed off his other end, and could only muster a yawn as his mane was being braided. Joanne McNamara, exercise rider of Dollar Bill, was getting good vibes, and believed the black cloud that had been hanging over the colt was about to lift. "I really have a good feeling," she said. "He's just been so happy here, and he ran Dallas (trainer Stewart) out of his stall this morning. And he never does that to Dallas."

Jennifer Leigh-Pedersen, recruited off the farm by owner Ernie Paragallo to train Griffinite and his other horses, said she was going back to the hotel to meditate and pray. "He won't disappoint me today; he just won't," she said. "He will give 100%. I know he will." She then planted a big kiss on the colt's cheek. "He knows I love him to death," she said.

Despite all the rumors and questions, Point Given still was made the co-favorite with Monarchos at 2-1, although there were a few more dollars wagered on Point Given in the win pool. Baffert was hoping Congaree, with new rider Jerry Bailey, would be able to settle in behind horses and not be shown daylight for as long as possible. But when Congaree bobbled at the start and ducked toward the inside, it got his blood up, and he took off after pace-setting Richly Blended. Point Given, as per Salman's instructions, was taken hold of by Stevens, who dropped him in behind the field. Monarchos, who seemed to be struggling with the track from the outset, fell back to last as they went into the first turn after a quarter in :23.84.

Down the backstretch, Richly Blended opened up by about three lengths, with Congaree, racing without cover, in second, and pulling Bailey. Victor Espinoza, who landed the mount on A P Valentine after being taken off Congaree, had his colt in good position in sixth. Passing the five-eighths pole, Stevens put Point Given in gear, and he began picking off horses from the far outside. A P Valentine was in tight quarters and had to duck to the inside to avoid Percy Hope, just as Point Given was charging up alongside him. Dollar Bill was in good striking position for a change, but that wouldn't last long. Nearing the half-mile pole, Shaun Bridgmohan, on Griffinite, flipped his goggles, and the colt suddenly ducked out right into poor old Dollar Bill, whose collision rates are skyrocketing with each race. Just like that, Dollar Bill was last. A snake-bit Pat Day could only steer him to the outside and circle the field. A P Valentine, meanwhile, was also having traffic problems and lost some momentum at a crucial time.

Continued. . . .

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