Updated on 09/15/2011 12:15PM

Next one's the tie-breaker

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Point Given (2nd from right) wins the 126th Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

Point Given and Monarchos have established themselves as the best of this year's 3-year-old crop, but the two times they have met, one has fired, while the other has sputtered. So while there will be no Triple Crown winner this year, the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park still offers a showdown between the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winners, along with a strong supporting cast.

Point Given, who made up for his Derby flop with a powerful performance in Saturday's Preakness, on Sunday morning returned to Churchill Downs, where he will be prepared for the Belmont. Monarchos, the Derby winner, remained at Pimlico after finishing sixth in the Preakness, and will be sent by van this week to Belmont, along with stablemate Hero's Tribute, who is scheduled to run in Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes.

Four horses - Point Given, Monarchos, A P Valentine, and Dollar Bill - who ran in both the Derby and Preakness are expected to continue on to the Belmont, whose 1 1/2-mile distance makes it the longest of the Triple Crown races. Three horses who ran in the Derby but skipped the Preakness - Balto Star, Invisible Ink, and Thunder Blitz - also are expected for the Belmont.

In addition, Dr Greenfield will ship over from Britain to participate. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is expected to have his lone starter in a Triple Crown race this year in Buckle Down Ben, who has not raced since finishing sixth in the Turfway Spiral Stakes on March 24. And there could be some additional Belmont starters coming out of the Peter Pan, whose field is expected to include Dayton Flyer and E Dubai, both recent allowance winners at Belmont Park, and I Love Silver, third last time out to Point Given in the Santa Anita Derby.

One Peter Pan runner who definitely will not go in the Belmont is Hero's Tribute, according to John T. Ward Jr., who trains both Hero's Tribute and Monarchos for John Oxley.

"I'm trying to set him up for something like the Swaps," Ward said, referring to Hollywood Park's $500,000 Swaps Stakes on July 15.

Point Given, who got a Beyer Speed Figure of 111 in the Preakness, will try to become the first horse since Tabasco Cat in 1994 to win the Preakness and Belmont after losing the Derby. If he is successful, he will give his trainer, Bob Baffert, his first Belmont victory. Baffert had notable losses with both Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998; each time, the Triple Crown was on the line.

"Sorry I didn't get you a Triple Crown," Baffert said Sunday morning at Pimlico.

"I thought if I was going to do it with any horse, I'd do it with this horse," he added.

Baffert believes that two factors contributed to Point Given's fifth-place finish in the Derby - being used early to be too close to a hot pace, and the hard track at Churchill that day.

"Gary," Baffert said, referring to jockey Gary Stevens, "thought he might have rushed the issue. At the same time, the track was too firm. I couldn't get mad at Gary, because I agreed with what he wanted to do. At least we got one of them."

Congaree, who finished third in both the Derby and Preakness, returned to Churchill Downs with Point Given on Sunday, then went on to California to join Baffert's main string at Santa Anita. Congaree will be freshened for a summer and fall campaign. Baffert said a next likely target would be Monmouth Park's Haskell Invitational. He also said he could put Congaree on the turf this fall, with an eye on the Breeders' Cup Mile, whose distance should suit Congaree's style.

Monarchos will try to emulate Point Given's sire, Thunder Gulch, who in 1995 won the Derby and Belmont but lost the Preakness. "He's never been to Belmont. This is new territory," Ward said.

Ward said he knew Monarchos was not going to fire when the horses came by the stands for the first time in Saturday's race.

"Ten jumps before the finish line the first time, Jorge," Ward said, referring to jockey Jorge Chavez, "twice tried to get him to switch to his right lead, and he wouldn't do it. He looked uncomfortable."

Asked where he thought Monarchos stacked up against Point Given in the race for a year-end championship, Ward said, "I'm behind, but with a long season to go."

"I don't think that question will be answered until about the first week of November," Ward said, referring to the usual time of the Breeders' Cup, which this year is Oct. 27 at Belmont Park. "This is a strong, strong 3-year-old crop. We'll find out which one is left standing at the end of the season.

"I'm just starting to scratch the surface with this horse," Ward added. "He should be a good handicap horse. At the end of his career, he'll be way up on the money ranks. He should only improve with age."

A P Valentine's runner-up performance thrilled trainer Nick Zito, who believed his colt was rounding into top form based on the way he had trained all last week.

"Point Given was impressive, but don't forget, A P didn't get anything out of his two races in Kentucky," Zito said, referring to the Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes. "I was certainly gratified with his performance." A P Valentine beat Point Given at Belmont Park last year in the Champagne Stakes.

Dollar Bill, who again encountered traffic trouble while finishing fourth, returned to Churchill Downs on the same flight that carried Point Given. "I think that race would suit him," trainer Dallas Stewart said of the Belmont. "I think there are some big races with his name on it."

Stewart said he was unsure whether Pat Day would ride Dollar Bill in the Belmont. He said he did not hold the jockey at fault for his Preakness trouble, but Dollar Bill has had several rough trips under Day this spring.

"The horse ran hard for him," Stewart said. "It's not an easy decision. We're going to go home and put our heads together."