Sean Clancy: Waiting For Point Given

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

"He lands at the airport at 2:00," answered Tonja Terranova the morning of Point Given's arrival. You could see the roll of her eyes and the helpless look that said, "Let the games begin."

Point Given was coming to town for the Travers. The watch outside Tonja and John Terranova's barn began a little before 3, Tuesday afternoon. The yellow caution tape was strung from telephone pole to loading chute.

Rope was run up from barn corner to green "Security" saw horses. The stall was ready, fresh shavings spilled out into the shedrow, a fresh green bale of alfalfa leaned up against the door, the back window was shut tight. Gander and Heavyweight Champ ate hay and the masses began to collect.

Colum O'Brien's barn sat quietly, John Parisella's the same as any other afternoon. An orange wheel barrow was turned over. A man with a steaming bucket of water scuffled past.

A news camera waited, resting on the edge of the manure pit. Skip Dickstein and Michael Marten stood ready under the trees. NYRA's Fran LaBelle scanned the surroundings. Writer Ed Fountaine sat on a cinder block and read the Form. A man riding a bike carrying two bags of ice went singing past. Joan and Leo O'Brien drove in to do afternoon watch.

"Isn't it just going to look like a big chestnut getting off a van?" was mumbled.

At 3:44, an Alex Nichols tractor trailer hit the air brakes at the chute.

Cameras readied, notebooks flipped open, all the horses stared out the back windows. Some liver chestnut walked off the van with a man carrying a plastic bag of cans and food.

Joe Gaida stepped out of the truck and asked, "What's a big horse coming in?"

False alarm.

Back to the stoops.

At 4:07, Gaida came back to the ramp and loaded a bay and a chestnut.

"Damn, now I'm curious," Gaida said as he shut the door of the trailer and climbs back in the cab. "I gotta go back to Belmont. Wouldn't mind seeing him now."

At 4:21, an air brake screams and now it's show time.

A spotless white and green Sallee tractor trailer stops at the chute. A man drives the truck, another one opens the door, 10 people stand to the left of the chute, 15 have collected at 12 o'clock, another six to the right.

A brush box is set to the edge of the chute and a dark bay horse walks off the van. Good looking horse, ignored in the situation. Finally (they groomed him in the van) the biggest chestnut horse you've ever seen steps gingerly off the van. He looks right, then straight, then left. Slowly, like a good John Wayne movie, he scopes out the place. A shank runs under his gum, four white bandages protect his legs, two fuzz topped bell boots cover his front shoes. He walks twice around the trees. On the second time, you are able to read his halter plaque – "Big Red Train".

In 10 minutes he's in his stall. Popular, the dark bay, gets a bath. Point Given comes back out and walks under the trees to the front of the barn. He walks slowly and contrived. It's as quiet as anyone here has seen him.

He continues to scope out the place. He looks each and every visitor right in the eye. No one goes home after this experience and says, "I saw Point Given." They go home and say, "Point Given saw me."

He walks as plans are made for the morning. He walks as assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes in a Del Mar hat works on his own accommodations. He walks as movie cameras move practically underneath him. He walks as spectators, reporters, gawkers and admirers move off.

His long forelock drapes over his right eye, like an icecicle over a ledge. His tail swishes flies as rhythmically as a violin.

Finally he's put in his stall. He stares over the webbing and two runners twisted together. His head's like an old war movie machine gun, boom to the right, boom to the center, boom to the left. And back again.

In one motion he spins around his stall like a propeller and hits the front of the webbing. One snap breaks in half and the runner hits the floor.

Exercise rider Pepe Aragon shakes his head and they fasten a new snap on the end of the runner.

Looks like it's happened before. It's going to be a fun week.

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at or telephone at 518-581-1947.