Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.

Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.

Mike Corrado

Monarchos, Point Given Gearing Up For Belmont Showdown

With the Belmont Stakes just over a week away, the questions persist: will the Test of the Champion live up to its billing as a showdown between Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and Preakness winner Point Given, or will one of the other horses who have run well in Derby or Preakness, such as A P Valentine, Invisible Ink, Dollar Bill and Thunder Blitz, knock off the big two?

And then you have the unknown horse, Dr Greenfield, a big, strong, distance-loving son of Dr Devious, who will wear the always dangerous silks of Team Valor. Balto Star, the expected speed, and Buckle Down Ben complete the prospective field.

The respective trainers of Point Given and Monarchos, Bob Baffert and John Ward, have gone about their training in their own way, and they'll just have to wait and see which will be better suited to the mile and a half of the Belmont.

Baffert, in particular, would like to get the mischievous Point Given to Belmont in one piece and run the race already. "He's like a big, old kid, and you have to watch him," Baffert said. "He keeps you on your toes."

As for the Belmont, Baffert said Point Given has been looking good, and has not done any of his infamous rearing up, now that they've kept a lip cord on him and watched him very closely.

When asked about the differences in training methods, Baffert said, "I've been doing it this way a long time and have had success, so I'm not going to second guess myself. If I might have done anything differently, maybe I should have run Point Given in the Wood Memorial instead of Congaree."

Ward said Monarchos "likes everything about Belmont Park," but added that he appeared to like the surface better when it was wet than when it became loose and sandy. Ward hopes both horses have the opportunity to look each other in the eye. "If Point Given is good and sound, he should have no problem with the distance," he said. "If both horses get into a head and head duel, we'll find out if he's got that fight in him."

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, feels Dr Greenfield, winner of the Dee Stakes at Chester, is a better horse than My Memoirs, who finished second to A.P. Indy in the 1992 Belmont after also winning the Dee Stakes. Dr Greenfield is a bigger, stronger horse, and has a ton of stamina, especially in his female family.