Updated on 09/15/2011 12:57PM

Injured Point Given retired


DEL MAR, Calif. - Point Given, who dazzled race fans from coast to coast, won two classic races, and emerged as the leading candidate for Horse of the Year, has been retired because of a strain in a tendon in his left front leg, it was disclosed Friday morning.

The announcement was made by the colt's trainer, Bob Baffert, and Richard Mulhall, who is the president and racing manager for Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation, which owns and bred Point Given.

"I'm devastated," a shaken Baffert said while standing outside Point Given's stall at Del Mar on Friday morning. "What really hurts is that it's not only a blow for me, the stable, and the prince, but it's a blow for racing. He attracts such a huge following. We finally had a great horse, and look what happens."

Point Given won last Saturday's Travers Stakes at Saratoga, his ninth victory in 13 lifetime starts, before a record Travers crowd of 60,846. He flew back to Del Mar on Monday and was walked under tack here Tuesday and Wednesday. According to Baffert, Point Given was scheduled to go back to the track to resume galloping on Thursday, but the colt's groom, Roberto Luna, detected some heat in the ankle. So, Point Given remained in his stall.

"I was on pins and needles all afternoon," Baffert said.

The leg was examined late Thursday afternoon via ultrasound by Baffert's primary veterinarian, Dr. Vince Baker, who detected a strain.

"It must have happened in the race, but didn't show up until now," Mulhall said, referring to the Travers, in which Point Given earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 117.

According to Mulhall, Dr. Baker said Point Given would need at least three to four months to recuperate from the injury. After a meeting Thursday night at a local hotel that included Baffert, Mulhall, and the prince, it was decided to retire Point Given. He was scheduled to race just twice more this year, including in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and was scheduled to remain in training next year at age 4.

"It's just too risky to try to bring him back," Mulhall said.

"He would miss the Breeders' Cup," Mulhall added. "And then if something went wrong next year, he would miss the entire breeding season. It's a big loss for us, but it's a big loss for the public, too. But we've got to do what's in the best interests of the horse at this point."

Mulhall said Point Given will enter stud next year. He said the colt could be syndicated and sent to a breeding farm, or the prince could retain 100-percent interest and stand him himself. "A lot of people are asking about him. There's a lot of interest in standing him at stud," Mulhall said.

Point Given was in his stall Friday morning, acting rather placid. Mulhall said Point Given would remain at Del Mar for at least "the next couple of days," then would head to The Thoroughbred Corp.'s farm in Bradbury, Calif., just east of Santa Anita. He will remain there until he goes to stud.

"He was the greatest racehorse I've seen in a long, long time," Mulhall said. "I hope he's as successful a stud as he was a racehorse. He still has to be the 3-year-old champion, and he has a chance to be Horse of the Year. I think he was the best horse in the world. It's a shame we lost him."

Baffert walked around stunned all Friday morning.

"I was so emotional last night, I almost cried," Baffert said. "It's such a humbling business. You're on top of the game, and then you get knocked right back down. I'm sick about it. When things like this happen, it's gut-wrenching. It still hasn't sunk in yet. I think I'm in denial.

"The hardest part is that I really enjoyed showing him off. People would come to see him race, and they'd just be in awe of him. He'd bring so much excitement to wherever he showed up. What really hurts is that I still don't think we'd tapped into him."

The decision to retire Point Given brought to a sudden and unexpected close the racing career of the most popular horse in training in the United States. The massive chestnut colt thrilled fans with his brilliant performances and captivated them with his high-strung antics. In addition to the record Travers turnout last weekend, Point Given brought crowds of 73,852 to the Belmont Stakes on June 9 and a record 47,127 to Monmouth Park's Haskell Invitational on Aug. 5.

They usually saw what they came to see. Point Given won six Grade 1 races, five this year, including his last four, all four of which had million-dollar purses. His victories included the Hollywood Futurity, Santa Anita Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Haskell, and Travers. He finished first or second in 12 of his 13 starts. His only poor performance came on the day when it mattered most, when he finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

Point Given more than made up for that race by winning his next four starts. This year, he won races at five different tracks in four states. He retires with earnings of $3,968,500.

Point Given was bred by mating the sire Thunder Gulch with the Turkoman mare Turko's Turn. He made his debut last summer at Del Mar, finishing second. He won his next two starts, then finished second in two straight races, including a nose loss to Macho Uno in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Because of the talent he displayed at age 2, his long-distance pedigree, and his massive frame, Point Given emerged this spring as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, with some believing he had a chance to sweep the Triple Crown. Point Given lived up to expectations early, with victories in the Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe Stakes. He also picked up a following because of his spirited antics. He repeatedly would rear in the mornings as his regular exercise rider, Pepe Aragon, held on tightly.

Baffert, who has trained such outstanding runners as Derby winners Real Quiet and Silver Charm, repeatedly has said that Point Given was the best horse he ever trained. Baffert had a special halter made for Point Given. On the left-hand side, it had the horse's name, and on the right-hand side, it said, "Big Red Train." Baffert also had specialty license plates made for his four-wheel drive vehicle that read: "PT GIVEN."

Do you think Point Given accomplished enough this year prior to his injury to earn Horse of the Year honors? Which horse do you feel could deny him the title?

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