A Cup of Coffee--Monday, August 27, 2001

A Cup of Coffee--Monday, August 27, 2001
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By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

Honor it. Accept it. And most of all enjoy it. Point Given is the greatest horse in all the land. Forget the Derby defeat, the Haskell scare, the bar shoe, and all the rest. Point Given. That's all you have to remember.

The Travers was the latest court for him to hold. The giant red colt played with eight rivals (or victims) and won the $1 million race by 3 1/2 lengths. It could have been 103 1/2. E Dubai finished second with Dollar Bill third. Point Given stalked the solid pace of Free Of Love and E Dubai, just cruising along like a big ship. Gary Stevens was sure to keep him in the clear about three off the fence. He rolled into the turn with Stevens motionless. John Velazquez was all over A P Valentine. Jorge Chavez had been at Dollar Bill for a quarter mile. And Jerry Bailey was about to get inhaled aboard E Dubai.

Point Given came off the turn and collared E Dubai. The two battled, or at least appeared to battle. The problem was E Dubai was giving 100 percent and Point Given was barely past preheat. Stevens finally yanked him to his right lead at about the eighth pole and he pulled away with ease.

"I don't know what percent it was but we didn't get to the bottom of him," Stevens said. "I came into the stretch and I thought Jerry had more horse left than he did. I thought he would carry me to the sixteenth pole and I'd get my horse to accelerate with him. All of a sudden I found myself in front without asking him to run. It was a lot like the Preakness. When he finds himself on the lead without me chasing him, he tends to fool around with me. He was having a holiday from the sixteenth pole home. He was just having fun, playing around a bit."

That's what the racing world can do with the big float it's been handed. We have a star. He's ours now. Just climb on and go with the greatness. Play around a bit. The horse has a little bit for everybody. He's got a playful side. An aggressive side. A goofy side. A magical side. A natural side. Which do you want?

He's won his last four starts--the Preakness, the Belmont, the Haskell and now the Travers. The parade is underway.

"He was just dragging me throughout the race. Basically I felt like the race was over with from the time we entered the first turn. I didn't have any doubts. He was traveling really really comfortable," Stevens said. "I could have opened up at the three-eighths pole and he probably would have won by eight or ten lengths like the Belmont. He toyed with these horses today."

Nobody knows that better than Velazquez, who rode A P Valentine. "You look over at him and he's just galloping while I'm riding my horse just to stay with him," Velazquez said. "They just can't keep up. That's when they get intimidated. Oh, they know when the other horse is going better. Believe me they know. You break their heart, that's it. Like Alydar and Affirmed. How would you like to have been in the same race with them? It's pretty much the same with Point Given. All this bull about him having problems and traveling. Yeah, that took a lot out of him. You could take him back and forth 10 times and he'd still go around there and win."

Point Given brought over 60,000 fans out for the afternoon. And made every one of them walk home with a bigger heart. It was one of those races that made you want to go for a run when you got home. Owned by the Thoroughbred Corporation and trained by Bob Baffert, Point Given simply took over Saratoga for four days. He's as good as we've seen in a long long time and will hopefully try to prove that in the Breeders' Cup this fall. Stevens is already thinking about that day.

"I don't know how good he is. I really don't. I'm sure I'm going to find out in the Breeders' Cup though. I honestly think the better competition he runs against, the better he's going to perform. I think he needs the chance to run against older horses. A character builder against some horses of better quality. I'd like to see him get in a semi-tough race prior to the Breeders' Cup. Maybe he'll toy with everybody but I don't think he will, there are too many quality horses out there. I'm anxious to get in a fight with somebody that has some quality like he has."

Tiznow is reportedly back on track out in California. Red Bullet looks to get back into the fray after a long layoff. And now European wonder horse Galileo is mentioned as a possible Breeders' Cup challenger. Stevens knows what the game needs.

"The Breeders' Cup Classic will be one of the best ones we've seen in a long long time," Stevens said. "That's what it's all about. I hope everything comes together with Galileo because it'll be great for the international scene. Our sport has needed a horse like this. And it sounds like Point Given will run again next year."

Now we're talking. Point Given is the chosen one for the moment. Time to enjoy him and all his exploits. He simply dazzled the place. From his poise and presence to his speed and stamina, it was the Point Given show. And he's the one directing it.

"He took one deep breath after the race and surveyed the racetrack. ESPN was interviewing me with the outrider and we walked for about 100 yards," Stevens said. "He was just strolling around checking everything out. The outrider cantered me back and turned me loose. He saw all the cameras and the ears came up. He knows."

By the end of the day the Travers air was waning. The sun had gone down,
sprinklers were spraying the turf course, traffic still started to move on Union Avenue, women walked down the sidewalks carrying their shoes, aluminum cans were being bundled up, tickets were scooped up off the ground, tow trucks readied their winches for service.

Back at John Terranova's barn, Point Given was simply waiting for dinner.
Roberto Luna smooched to him to move over and let him in his stall. He
finally adjusted his feet about two inches to accommodate his groom. Luna
knelt underneath him and swathed cool out clay up and down his front legs
with a rubber glove on his right hand. Point Given looked as peaceful as any creature in the world. Big kind eye and easy motion, looking and eating, wondering and thinking. He knows.

Exercise rider Pepe Aragon yawned and chased visitors from the front of the stall.

"There, there is OK. Not in front. He spooks," Aragon said.

Mobile phones were being dialed, answered and shaken. Point Given, with the weight of the industry still on his broad shoulders dove back and forth into his big hay net. His ears went up and back with every passing car and every speaking person. His moist eyes almost made him look sleepy. His braided forelock still clung in place.

"Oh, he's a good guy," Aragon said. "I wish he won the Derby, what, there would have been 100,000 people over there for him."

Finally all his legs were finished for the night. He walked once around his stall, anxious.

"He's waiting for dinner that's why he paces," Aragon said.

Finally you can't take it anymore.

"Can I pet him?"

"Sure, sure. He's OK."

You reach up to his face like you've never petted a horse before.

And in a way you haven't.

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at sean@thesaratogaspecial.com or telephone at 518-581-1947.

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