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.