08/30/2001 11:00PM

Point Given one for history books


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - His place in racing history, as one of the outstanding 3-year-olds of our time, is assured. Point Given was brilliant in winning the Santa Anita Derby and, with the exception of the Kentucky Derby, when flawed tactics may have contributed to his defeat, every succeeding appearance added to his stature. Those who saw him win the Travers here last weekend left with a keen anticipation of his next triumph, never guessing that an injury would force him into retirement so soon.

It is regrettable that he was unable to complete the season and certify the widely held opinion that he would have been equal to the challenge of beating older horses. He was a box-office star of great magnitude, and could have done so much for racing in the months ahead. But we were fortunate to have him as long as we did, and we will treasure the rich memories he left us.

Our sympathies to his owner and breeder, Prince Ahmed Salman, trainer Bob Baffert, and jockey Gary Stevens. You do not lose a horse of such quality without considerable distress. To their credit, when the time came to make a difficult decision, they met it head on, with the welfare of their horse the primary consideration. It would be fitting if one of Point Given's sons were to follow in his steps for them.

New challenge for Penny's Gold

An outstanding race meeting at Saratoga comes to a close Monday with a talented field of grass fillies and mares clashing in the $500,000 Diana Handicap at nine furlongs. Perhaps the most interesting of these is Penny's Gold, a 4-year-old daughter of Kingmambo from Penny's Valentine who races for the Overbrook Farm of William T. Young.

Penny's Gold raced in France at 2 and 3, showing promise. Shipped back to the U.S. last fall, she has bloomed in the skilled care of Chris Clement, winning all four of her starts for him, including the recent Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap here. None of these races, however, was longer than 1 1/16 miles.

"The Diana is something of a test for Penny's Gold," Clement said. "If she can stay the trip it would open many opportunities for her. We're hoping for a firm course. Yielding ground would be taxing on stamina."

Kingmambo, sire of Penny's Gold, was a miler, but the filly's dam comes from the family of Mrs. Penny, who won the Prix Diane [the French Oaks] of 1980 at a 1 5/16 miles.

It's a Giggle overcomes hurdles

The steeplechase people gave us a corking good show in Thursday's $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup, in which the heavily favored Praise the Prince carried top weight of 160 pounds over the 2 3/8 miles. A 6-year-old gelding from New Zealand, Praise the Prince gave it a courageous try and was in good position approaching the final jump. But the toll had been taken.

The winner, under Blythe Miller, was It's a Giggle. Racing on the lead, the 7-year-old gelding by Northern Baby fenced smartly and held off late challenges to score by a neck over Canta Ke Brave, with Praise the Prince third. It's a Giggle carried 142 pounds and was in receipt of 18 pounds from Praise the Prince.

It's a Giggle is owned by William Pape and Hall of Fame horseman Jonathan Sheppard, who trains the horse. This was the 11th victory for a Sheppard-trained horse in the Turf Writers Cup, and one of the most satisfying. It's a Giggle was injured in the fall of 1998, and was sidelined for more than two years. Sheppard brought him back this past spring with care and skill, and It's a Giggle has shown steady improvement.

Sheppard plans to give It's a Giggle a chance at the two major events of the fall steeplechase schedule, the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase and the Colonial Cup.