A Cup of Coffee--Saturday, Sept. 1

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

You'll remember where you were. Like JFK, the shuttle, or the man on the moon. The day, the place, the setting, the mood is locked away. Always there, always on call.

I was sitting in a metal chair two days away from the conclusion of The Saratoga Special's inaugural season.

The OTB channel played in my right ear like any other day, that elevator beat with an occasional race call from Finger Lakes, Saratoga or Monmouth. Then the man came on and said, "It was just reported that Point Given has been . . . retired."

And then the air was gone.

Our float, our savior, our poster child . . . off to the hills of Kentucky, never to be seen in the moment again. We saw his last hurrah right here at Saratoga in the Travers. See why I want that extra turn around the paddock?

The horse of a lifetime only lasts minutes.

Retired due to a "strained left tendon" the big horse has left the building. Seems like a long time ago, that Travers. It was a fun dream while it lasted.

Now isn't it shameful that we criticized his efforts. His Derby loss, the Haskell close call, what a sad thing we ever uttered a derogatory word about the horse. The old adage comes back to life once again, appreciate it while you got it.

A few hours after the announcement, Steve Asmussen walked back from the clubhouse after his Point Given, Cashier's Dream, won the Spinaway by a country driveway.

"You just don't know. There are no guarantees. Point Given's retired," Asmussen said. He carried her saddle towel in his right hand and a smile that stretched from the jocks' room to the paddock. He knows that one day Cashier's Dream will be retired. One day a groom could ask him to walk in her stall to look at "this". He can feel the clunk in his gut from here.

Think it's hard to be a fan? Be a trainer. Ducking under Point Given's webbing to check that leg. Running your hand over it again and again. Willing the heat that you know is there away. Creating the theory of a wrap instead of a strain. You might not like when Bob Baffert puts a trophy on his head or plays the guitar with Richie Havens, but you gotta feel for the guy when he bent down on one knee and ran his hand down the back of that leg.

How about a jockey. Think Gary Stevens' knees hurt a little more this afternoon than they did in this morning? He said it over and over, he's the best, the reason, the ride of his life. Sure, he'll rebound with rides on Red Bullet, Macho Uno and other Cadillacs but that pit of his gut is rumbling away. And will forever.

How about an owner. Sure Prince Ahmed Salman is a Prince. But every prince needs a good horse. This was his. See him grab that shank in the middle of the track last week? It's not about money. He shared him with us and was prepared to do so again next year. Getting out of bed tomorrow's going to take a little longer.

Reporting's easy. I watched the four bandages go on those legs after the Travers. I can't say I didn't think about his ankles and tendons, knees and hocks. Sure I thought about how long they can last as Point Given stood there with his head in his haynet. Sure I thought about them but not as much as I am right now.

Point Given's retired. Yeah, and Ghandi picked a fight. Can you believe that?

All our plans, the showdown with older horses, the Breeders' Cup Classic with Galileo, Tiznow, Albert The Great, Red Bullet. Our bags were packed, sitting by the door ready to go and now the pilot just cancelled the trip. No refunds either. Well no full refunds. There's always refunds in horse racing. The Hopeful, ah what timing, comes today. Another batch to latch on to.

Can there be another Point Given? Sure, there was once a Man o' War, a Seabiscuit, a Kelso, a Forego, a John Henry . . . a Cigar. They all retired, too. We'll be back to fight another day. The air will come back in the lungs. Maybe not today or even this fall but again it will come. Maybe we'll feel the way we did on Travers Day 2001 again. Maybe.

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