Updated on 09/15/2011 12:43PM

Point Given, Act II: New goal is Horse of the Year

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Trainer Bob Baffert with Preakness and Belmont winner Point Given, who runs next in the Haskell.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The goal this spring for Point Given was the Triple Crown, and though he won both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, the loss in the Kentucky Derby still smarts to those around him. Now however, they are ready to turn the page. Point Given's second season, designed to bring him the Horse of the Year title, is about to begin.

Point Given is scheduled to return to action in Sunday's Grade 1, $1.5 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. He has not raced since his overpowering victory in the Belmont on June 9. Point Given was trained lightly in the weeks following that race, but the pace has accelerated in recent weeks, and he polished off his preparation with a five-furlong work in a snappy 58.80 seconds Tuesday morning at Del Mar.

"That'll sharpen him up," Bob Baffert, Point Given's trainer, said as the colt flashed under the finish line.

Baffert then leaned into his walkie-talkie. "Is he ready?" he asked.

"Yes," came the breathless reply from exercise rider Dana Barnes.

Just as he did in the spring with his 3-year-olds, Baffert is trying to divide and conquer in Grade 1 races this weekend. Point Given runs in the Haskell, where the purse was raised by $500,000 because of his participation. Baffert will start his other top 3-year-old, Congaree, in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. Gary Stevens will ride both colts.

Congaree, who won the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last month, was scheduled to be flown to Saratoga on Wednesday. Point Given was to fly to New Jersey on Thursday. Baffert intended to fly to Saratoga on Thursday, head down to Monmouth immediately following the Jim Dandy, then return to Saratoga Sunday night following the Haskell in order to attend next week's yearling sales.

Plans for Congaree and Point Given after this weekend are undetermined. Baffert said that Point Given is the most likely of the two to run in the $1 million, Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 25, but there is a good chance neither will run there.

"Congaree needs more time between races, and I don't know about a mile and a quarter," Baffert said, referring to the Travers distance. "It all depends on how he handles the track." Baffert wants to put Congaree on the turf sometime soon, perhaps as early as the Grade 2, $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3.

Point Given's main goal is the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, highlight of the World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

"The Travers comes up a little quick," said Richard Mulhall, the racing manager for Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation, which owns Point Given. "It would be better if it was a week later. We're not ruling it out, but it's not quite right. We're just going to go race by race. Hopefully everything will work out this weekend, and he'll win easily. But our main goal is the Breeders' Cup."

Point Given walked for approximately 10 days following the Belmont, Baffert said. The colt got some needed rest, and a fungus that resulted in cracked heels was treated and allowed to heal. Once Point Given started training seriously again, Baffert and Mulhall started discussing possible race schedules, but Monmouth's offer to raise the Haskell purse got their attention.

"We had thought about the Haskell. We were playing it by ear. When they applied the extra money to it, that didn't hurt," Mulhall said. "The purse is $1.5 million, $900,000 to the winner. You'd hate to walk away from that." Mulhall said that Prince Ahmed originally intended to attend the Haskell, but will not because of the recent, sudden death of his brother, Prince Fahd Salman.

Once Mulhall and Baffert decided on the Haskell, they had to get Point Given ready in a hurry. Baffert said the schedule has "been a little tight," and was compromised by an unintentionally slow gate work two weeks ago with Stevens. "That was just a fast gallop," Baffert said.

Point Given's two works since that, including Tuesday's, have been much sharper. Monmouth tends to favor speed, and though Point Given won the Santa Anita Derby at the Haskell's 1 1/8-mile distance, he is more effective at 1 1/4 miles and beyond.

"He needs to have some speed," Baffert said. "He's got to gear it up. "I'm just going to take it one race at a time," Baffert added. "I'm not making any plans beyond this weekend. We'll see what happens. I want to have a good horse for the Breeders' Cup."