Point Given, Monarchos headed for Belmont showdown
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Once again, there will be no Triple Crown winner, but there is a budding rivalry between Preakness winner Point Given and Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.
"I think it's going to be real rivalry between these two colts," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Point Given, who rebounded from a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Derby to win the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico. "It will be good for racing."
John Ward, trainer of Monarchos, who finished seventh in the Preakness, said a trip to the Belmont Stakes was important because of the battle for the 3-year-old championship.
"He's competing with Point Given," Ward said.
Should either Monarchos or Point Given win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont on June 9, he would assume clear leadership of the 3-year-old division.
It is the anticipated showdown between the colts that would be the main attraction in the Belmont a year after neither the Derby winner (Fusaichi Pegasus) nor the Preakness winner (Red Bullet) competed in the race.
Ward said Monarchos would be sent to Belmont Park either Wednesday or Thursday. He said the colt was OK but came out of the race tired because of exerting himself on a track he couldn't handle.
While Point Given is expected to start in the final race of the Triple Crown series, Baffert would not commit himself Sunday.
He returned to California, while Point Given went to his barn at Churchill Downs.
"I'll make that call in about a week or so after I go back to Kentucky and see how he looks," Baffert said. "I'd like to go to the Belmont, but he has to be doing very well."
Baffert shrugged off talk during Preakness week that the strapping Point Given was a sore horse.
"This business is a business of knockers," he said. "I train for some high-profile guys and I can't take any chances [running a horse that is lame]."
Point Given is owned by Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia. Baffert's other 3-year-old star, Congaree, who was third in both the Derby and Preakness, is owned by Robert McNair, owner of the new Houston NFL franchise, and his wife, Janice.
Baffert said that he talked with McNair and that Congaree won't start in the Belmont.
Some other Belmont probables are A P Valentine, seventh in the Derby and second in the Preakness; Dollar Bill, 15th in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness; Invisible Ink, runnerup in the Derby; Thunder Blitz, fourth in the Derby; and Balto Star, 14th in the Derby.
Baffert, of course, was happy about Point Given's image-restoring performance in the Preakness, but there was lingering disappointment about not winning the Derby.
"I really thought that if I was going to do it [win the Triple Crown], I was going to do it with this horse," said Baffert, who won the Derby and Preakness with Silver Charm in 1997 and with Real Quiet in 1998, only to see those colts suffer narrow losses in the Belmont.
The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.
Ward said Baffert told him to savor Monarchos' Derby victory and not be disappointed about the Preakness.
"People walk up to you and ask if you won the Derby," Ward said Baffert told him. "Nobody asks if you won the Preakness."