Point Given gets redeeming win at Preakness Stakes
Updated: Sunday May 20, 2001 9:53 AM
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Point Given that everybody expected in the Kentucky Derby finally showed up in the Preakness -- big time.
On Saturday at Pimlico, it was Derby winner Monarchos who was missing, and for the 23rd consecutive year there will be no winner of the Triple Crown.
Point Given took charge in the stretch and won by 2 1/4 lengths over A P Valentine as Monarchos struggled home sixth.
"I felt I was loaded for bear every step of the way," winning jockey Gary Stevens said.
Point Given was the favorite in the Derby but had finished fifth, mystifying his trainer and his jockey.
"At least he's the horse we're talking about," said trainer Bob Baffert. "We never had any doubts, but we were puzzled."
On this warm, overcast Saturday in front of a Pimlico record crowd of 104,454, it was John Ward, Monarchos' trainer, who was puzzled.
"I think we'll take a serious look, scope him and do all those things you do to horses who don't run up to your expectations," Ward said. "He was a tired horse coming back."
Point Given, sent off a slight favorite over Monarchos despite his disappointing Derby, was sixth in the 11-horse field after the first half-mile, but had moved to third after three-quarters. At the quarter pole, Stevens and Point Given took command, and through much of the stretch it looked as if Baffert would have a one-two finish of Point Given and Congaree.
A P Valentine, who finished seventh in the Derby with a lot of traffic problems, stormed past Congaree in the deep stretch and beat him by a neck for second.
Congaree, also third in the Derby, finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Dollar Bill, who was 15th in the Derby. Griffinite finished fifth, ahead of Monarchos, meaning that the only five Derby starters in the Preakness field took five of the first six spots.
"It's a dream come true for me," said Stevens, who had retired for 10 months in 1999 because of arthritic knees. "He's the best horse I've ever ridden. He's like a dream.
"I feel like he vindicated himself a little bit," Stevens added. "He didn't show up two weeks ago and we still have no idea what happened. But he showed up today."
For bettors who maintained their faith in the strapping chestnut colt, they were rewarded with a mutuel payoff of $6.60, $5 and $4. A P Valentine, ridden by Victor Espinoza, returned $8.20 and $5.20. Congaree, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was $3.40 to show.
Ward, who had said he considered the Preakness the biggest obstacle for Monarchos in his Triple Crown bid, said he knew his colt was in trouble early in the race.
"I had a terrible feeling in the first turn," he said. "He didn't want to go to his right lead. He didn't seem to be taking to the track. He wouldn't go to his left lead in the stretch. He was just uncomfortable."
Asked how it felt to lose two weeks after the high of winning the Derby, Ward, a veteran Kentucky horseman said, "If you don't know how to lose in this business, you better get out of it."
Point Given carried a scale weight of 126 pounds over the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55 2/5 in finishing 7 1/4 lengths in front of Monarchos.
Point Given is owned by the Thoroughbred Corp. of Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia, who had come to Churchill Downs but was watching from home via satellite on Saturday.
"I just wish the prince could have been here today," Baffert said.
Baffert also was pleased with the performance of his other colt, who is owned by Bob and Janice McNair. Bob McNair owns the Houston NFL franchise, which will begin play next year.
"Congaree just ran his heart out today," Baffert said.
Of Point Given's impressive performance, he said, "I knew he was a winner at the quarter pole when he loped up to Congaree, who is a very fast horse."
Point Given was a gentleman in the post parade and a true pro in the race. The huge colt often gives Baffert a fright in the morning by rearing up.
He did that on the morning of the Derby and unseated his rider, but did not get loose. He did it again Friday morning, but this time his exercise rider stayed on.
"He's good enough to win when he's 75 percent of himself," Stevens said. "He did it with no effort at all."
It was the second Preakness victory for Stevens in 11 tries and the third for Baffert, who won the race consecutively with Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998).
It's now on to the Belmont on June 9, a race in which Silver Charm and Real Quiet lost in their bids to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"We're going into the Belmont with a lot of horse under us," Baffert said.
A son of Thunder Gulch, who won the Derby and Belmont but finished third in the Preakness in 1995, Point Given earned $650,000 to boost his earnings to $1,868,500 on a record of six wins and three seconds in 10 starts. He has three wins in four starts this year, including a victory in the Santa Anita Derby.
Completing the order of finish after Monarchos were Marciano, Bay Eagle, Percy Hope, Richly Blended and Mr. John.
Griffinite's fifth-place finish had to be pleasing to trainer Jennifer Leigh-Pederson, who was the 10th female trainer in Preakness history. She was trying to become the first to win.
A P Valentine's second place also had to be satisfying to Victor Espinoza, who had ridden Congaree in the Derby but was replaced by Bailey for the Preakness.