Updated on 09/15/2011 12:20PM

Point Given preps in 59.60 for Belmont

Michael J. Marten
Point Given worked five furlongs in :59.60 Monday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - On the Monday before the 133rd running of the Belmont Stakes, the biggest news of the day wasn't at Belmont Park, but rather at Churchill Downs, where Preakness winner Point Given turned in his final pre-Belmont workout.

The Churchill Downs clockers caught Point Given's five-furlong breeze in :59.60 over a sloppy racetrack. The bullet time was the best of 13 horses on the worktab at the distance. The splits were :24.60 and :47.80 for the quarter and the half. Trainer Bob Baffert had his colt galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.60.

"He worked good and he's ready to go," said Baffert. "I wish there was a Triple Crown on the line this year, but I just want to go up there and have a good time and try to win the Belmont."

Point Given is scheduled to fly to Belmont Park from Kentucky on Wednesday, and will be arrive at the track with fellow Belmont starters Dollar Bill and Buckle Down Ben.

Buckle Down Ben, who is coming off a mile allowance win at Churchill Downs on May 27 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, also worked out this morning at Churchill. Buckle Down Ben went four furlongs in :50 before the rains came on a track labeled fast.

Monarchos ready for a 'ding-dong' battle

Saturday's Belmont is shaping up as the rubber-match between Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and Preakness winner Point Given. Yvonne Azeff, assistant trainer of Monarchos under John Ward, predicted a year-long rivalry between the two colts.

"People seem to be favoring Point Given at this point, but this is probably going to be a ding-dong thing all year long," said Azeff. "Every Grade 1 race for straight 3-year-olds the rest of the year is going to be important. There's also a lot of other very nice horses out there."

Monarchos had a quiet morning consisting of nothing more strenuous than walking the shedrow at barn #3 at Belmont Park Monday following his five furlong workout in 1:00.40 on Sunday.

"He'll take it easy for the rest of the week," said Azeff. "He's doing well. He's been pretty pleased with himself."

Azeff also stressed that the Belmont's 1 1/2-mile distance will be no problem for the son of Maria's Mon, and that the primary concern the rest of the week will be the track condition.

"Let it rain. The whole time here, he's trained on a dry track just one day. He's trained on an off track and he's worked on an off track. We'll be doing our rain dance," said Azeff. "Dry-fast or wet-fast will be alright for the race. He prefers a tight track and doesn't like a loose track. We just don't want it to be deep and cuppy."

A P Valentine set for Tuesday workout

So much of the focus in the Belmont is falling on the rematch between Point Given and Monarchos, but it would be a mistake to ignore Preakness runner-up A P Valentine, who will go to the track for his final Belmont prep Tuesday morning.

Trainer Nick Zito plans to send A P Valentine out for a five furlong breeze at approximately 6:30 a.m. with exercise rider Jamie Sanders aboard.

Zito originally had scheduled the workout for Monday, but decided to push it back until Tuesday to allow any residual moisture to dry out of the track.

"We want to work him the same as last week," said Zito in reference to A P Valentine's five-furlong drill in :59.60 on May 29. "Slower is better this time, and we felt the track was too lightening fast today."

A P Valentine is a perfect 2-for-2 in his career at Belmont Park, including a win in last fall's Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. That makes him the only horse in the prospective nine-horse Belmont field that has won on the track.

"This is home for him and he absolutely loves it here," said Zito. "He likes Belmont, he's 2-for-2, and it will be nice to be 3-for-3. He's doing great, and it ought to be a great Belmont."

Invisible Ink, Balto Star set sights on raceday

Todd Pletcher's Belmont duo of Invisible Ink and Balto Star walked the shedrow Tuesday and generally took it easy following their five-furlong workouts Sunday morning.

Kentucky Derby runner-up Invisible Ink breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20 before likely Belmont Stakes pace-setter Balto Star took to the track and drilled the same distance in 1:01.40. Both horses were piloted by exercise rider Judy Elias.

"All the other guys are going to tell you they're better off with the race in-between the Derby and Belmont," said Pletcher, "But I'm definitely in that camp that is glad to have the five weeks between races."

Pletcher appeared to have no worries about the 1 1/2-mile distance, or about track condition on raceday.

"I'd just as soon have a fast track, but Balto Star won the Arkansas Derby in the slop, and Invisible Ink broke his maiden in the mud, so that won't be a problem," said Pletcher. "And any time you run 1 1/2 miles you're always concerned, but that's the same with everyone. No one knows if they can do it, and no one knows if they'll ever do it again. It's not about the track or the distance, it's about the pace. The pace of the race will be the key."