Leading Horse of the Year candidate Point Given has been retired because of a strain to a tendon of his left foreleg, trainer Bob Baffert announced on Friday.
Although no stud plans have been made, speculation has begun about possible farms where the colt could end up.
The strain was detected on Thursday morning, when Point Given had been expected to return to the track for the first time after his victory in last Saturday's Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. "I've had to retire a lot of good horses, but I never felt like this," Baffert said. "We were just beginning to tap into his greatness."
"After the Travers, he was fine," Baffert said. "There was absolutely no problem, so it's hard to say how this happened. The day before he'd been rearing and was a little wild, so we decided to give him an extra day off. When the groom took the poultice off him yesterday, he noticed the heat in the area just below his knee. We iced him and it looked good, but an ultrasound (by veterinarian Vince Baker) showed a little strain."
"This horse had legs like a tree trunk," the trainer added. "When we found out what was wrong, I almost broke down in tears."
Baffert consulted with Point Given's owner, Saudi Arabian Prince Ahmed Salman, who was at Del Mar where Point Given is stabled, and with Richard Mulhall, racing manager of Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. Baker said it was the kind of injury that would require four to six months of rest to completely heal, and Baffert said the decision was made to retire him. "If you go on with him now it's going to tear," Baffert said. "We could rest him, but we all agreed that with a horse like this you just can't take a chance. A normal horse you could go on with, but he's just too good a horse to take any risk. The Prince said this horse has been too good to him and to the whole racing world."
The Travers win was an emotional victory for Salman, whose brother, Prince Fahd Salman, died in July of a heart attack at the age of 46. "When Point Given won the Travers, the Prince said the horse pulled him out of depression," Baffert said. "He really needed something to boost him, and he couldn't believe the way the crowd reacted to him. They loved the horse. It's a blow to us, but it's a bigger blow to the whole racing community."
Point Given helped attract a record crowd of 60,486 to Saratoga for the Travers, three weeks after a Monmouth Park record crowd of 47,127 watched him narrowly win the Haskell.
The Associated Press reported that Alice Chandler, who operates Mill Ridge Farm with her husband, John, had not contacted Salman about the possibility of Point Given standing at the Central Kentucky nursery. Point Given was raised at Mill Ridge. Chandler told the AP she is close to Salman, but will not contact him out of respect for the disappointment he must be feeling about the lost racing future of Point Given.
"It's so tragic," Chandler said in a telephone interview. "I still felt the best was yet to come."
Salman does not have a farm of his own, but several of his mares are also at Mill Ridge, according to the AP.
John Gaines, the founder of Gainesway Farm, told the AP that obtaining a top stallion could be compared to landing a $50 million economic development prize.
Point Given's victory in the Travers was his ninth career win in 13 starts, and fourth consecutive grade I triumph, following wins in the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, and Haskell Handicap. He received a Beyer Speed Figure of 117 in the Travers, his career best. Point Given came into the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) off facile victories in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), and he was made the 9-5 favorite to win the Run for the Roses. But Point Given finished a well-beaten fifth behind Monarchos after chasing a fast early pace. It was the only time in his career he finished worse than second. Monarchos went to the sidelines after the Triple Crown but is expected to return next year.
Point Given won three of six starts, with three seconds, as a 2-year-old, including the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). He finished second in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) to A P Valentine and was beaten a nose by Macho Uno in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), which cost him an Eclipse Award as 2-year-old male champion. In the most recent NTRA Poll ranking the top horses in training, Point Given received 17 of 19 first-place votes, with reigning Horse of the Year Tiznow receiving the other two votes. Tiznow is scheduled for a return to action next Saturday in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park after being sidelined by injury the last several months.
A son of Kentucky Derby-Belmont winner Thunder Gulch, currently the leading sire in North America, Point Given was bred in Kentucky by his owner. He was produced from the Turkoman mare, Turko's Turn. Point Given retires with nine wins from 13 starts and earnings of $3,968,500. No decision has been made on where he will stand at stud in 2002.
Stories Related to Point Given's Career:Steve Haskin's Travers Report: Glory TrainTravers May Have Secured Horse of the Year Honors For Point GivenFamily Matters: Point Given's Pedigree AnalysisTravers Favorite Point Given Acts Up After Gallop.Follow That Star: All Point Given All the TimeSteve Haskin's Haskell Report: New RecordingMonmouth to Boost Haskell Purse if Point Given RunsBelmont and Preakness Wins Are Nice, But Derby Loss LingersSteve Haskin's Belmont Story: Point Given Finally Sprouts WingsHaskin Made the Call: 'Why Point Given Should Dominate'Steve Haskin's Preakness Wrapup: A Blast From BaffertStevens: Track Compromised Point GivenPoint Given Gives Baffert a Scare Derby Morning.Steve Haskin's Derby Dozen: Point Given Maintains Perch at TopPoint Given Romps in Santa Anita Derby.Santa Anita Report: Point Given Scores in 2001 DebutPoint Given Impresses With Hollywood Futurity WinPoint Given's Half-Sister Rolls in Career DebutProfile of Owner Ahmed bin SalmanTrainer Bob Baffert ProfileJockey Gary Stevens