Updated on 09/15/2011 1:23PM

Belmont win puts Point Given on top

Harold Roth/Horsephotos
Point Given (right), with A P Valentine (outside) chasing him, turns for home en route to a 12 1/4-length victory under Gary Stevens in the Belmont Stakes. A P Valentine finished second, and Monarchos took third.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Point Given, leaving no doubt about his superiority among this year's crop of 3-year-olds, roared to a 12 1/4-length victory in Saturday's 133rd Belmont Stakes. His impressive performance will cause many to wonder if he could have won this year's Triple Crown had he been ridden in the Kentucky Derby as he was in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont.

Point Given was ridden aggressively away from the gate in the Derby, but he faltered at the end of the race and finished fifth. In the Preakness, he was allowed to coast along under his own power early, and produced a strong closing kick to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

In the Belmont, at 1 1/2 miles the longest of the Triple Crown races, jockey Gary Stevens again allowed Point Given to go along at his own pace in the first part of the race. Point Given was closer to the pace than in the Preakness, but the early fractions were sane, and Point Given was pulling the reins, instead of having Stevens shake them.

By the time Stevens allowed Point Given to roll, the colt was eager to do more. He quickly disposed of his rivals on the final turn, except for A P Valentine, who tried valiantly to stay within striking distance. But once Point Given turned into the stretch, he drew away with long, powerful strides.

"It'll always be bittersweet with these victories in the Triple Crown without the Derby," Stevens said. "I feel like he's a champion. He should have a Triple Crown next to his name."

Trainer Bob Baffert, who got his first victory in the Belmont Stakes, said, "It wasn't his day at the Derby. But we're not going to look back. We enjoyed the Preakness. We enjoyed the Belmont. He showed what he could do. If he stays together, we're going to have a lot of fun."

A P Valentine held on to finish second, three-quarters of a length in front of Monarchos, the Kentucky Derby winner. For New York native Nick Zito, the trainer of A P Valentine, it was the fifth time he finished second in the race. Zito was awed by Point Given.

"Who knows why he didn't win the Triple Crown," Zito said. "He's a tremendous horse. He's frightening."

Dollar Bill was fourth and was followed, in order, by Invisible Ink, Thunder Blitz, Buckle Down Ben, Balto Star, and Dr Greenfield, the European invader who delayed the start for several minutes while balking repeatedly when attempts were made to load him in the gate.

Point Given covered 1 1/2 miles on a fast main track in 2:26.56, equaling the fourth-fastest time in Belmont history. He went off as the 6-5 favorite, and paid $4.70 to win. The Belmont was the fifth leg of a pick six that had a guaranteed pool of $1 million. The pick six paid $11,154.

Bob Baffert had missed winning the Belmont four times previously, most notably with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998. Both those colts had won the Derby and Preakness and were shooting for the Triple Crown.

The Thoroughbred Corporation, which is headed by Saudi Arabian Prince Ahmed Salman, bred and owns Point Given. He is a 3-year-old colt by Thunder Gulch and is out of the Turkoman mare Turko's Turn. Thunder Gulch won the Derby and Belmont in 1995. Point Given has now won seven times in 11 starts, and has finished second three times. The only time he has finished worse than second was in the biggest race of his career, the Derby.

The Belmont, run on a warm, pleasant afternoon, was seen by a crowd of 73,857 that included New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Senator Clinton made the trophy presentation following the Belmont.

The Belmont offered a showdown between a Derby winner and a Preakness winner for the first time since 1994. But Point Given proved vastly superior to Monarchos.

"He ran all right. He ran like a tired horse," John T. Ward Jr., the trainer of Monarchos, said of his colt. "He tried to make a rally and it didn't happen. When he gets to Saratoga, he'll be a fresher horse."

Balto Star, as expected, went for the early lead. He set moderate fractions of 23.95 seconds, 48.00, and 1:11.78 for the first six furlongs. Buckle Down Ben was closest early, with Point Given stalking from third, only two lengths behind while racing three paths off the rail.

As the field advanced toward the far turn, Point Given began to put pressure on both Balto Star and Buckle Down Ben. A P Valentine also made his move, rallying four paths wide, just outside of Point Given.

Point Given poked his head in front after a mile in 1:35.56. By the time the field reached the top of the stretch, Point Given was two lengths in front, having covered 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.76. The only question at that point was the margin of victory.

As Point Given crossed under the wire, Stevens raised an index finger skyward. He later said it was in tribute to his friend, the late jockey Chris Antley, who was found dead last December.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Karen M. Johnson