08/20/2001 11:00PM

Point Given ships like a champ

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With his chestnut coat looking like a freshly minted copper penny, and without displaying any of the bad-boy tendencies that have become his trademark, Point Given arrived Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga, where he will be the overwhelming choice to win Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes.

Following an eight-hour plane ride that included stops in Louisville and Chicago, Point Given landed at Albany Airport around 3:30 p.m. He was then transported by van to Saratoga where he was bedded down in trainer John Terranova's barn on the Oklahoma side of the track. Point Given is trained by Bob Baffert, who on Tuesday was at Del Mar, and owned by Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation.

Point Given, winner of the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, and Haskell Invitational, looked fit and trim and was walked several times by his exercise rider, Pepe Aragon, who looked more haggard than the horse from the long trip. Also accompanying Point Given was a 2-year-old maiden colt, Popular, groom Roberto Luna, and assistant trainer Jim Barnes.

"He traveled very well," Barnes said just before notifying Baffert of the colt's arrival. "I think he's just maturing and growing up. Before, when we left for the Belmont and the Haskell he was fine. It was coming home when he'd get all pumped up."

Point Given traveled on the day after he breezed five furlongs in 59.20 seconds at Del Mar. It wasn't until after that move that Point Given was declared a starter for the Travers. During a conference call with racing writers earlier Tuesday, however, Baffert said the Travers was in the plans all along.

"`We had in our mind the Travers," he said. "I didn't want to say anything about it too early; I was waiting for the Prince. I didn't want people getting too excited about it and then him not coming. I didn't want to upset anybody if we changed our mind at the last minute."

Point Given was wearing a bar shoe Tuesday to protect his left hind foot, which had an abscess earlier this summer. Point Given won the Haskell wearing the bar shoe and Baffert said he plans to leave it on for the Travers.

"[The foot] wasn't raw before the last race, we just felt while it's growing out we'd keep the bar shoe," Baffert said. "We're just protecting that quarter so it doesn't happen again. He's walking great on it. I think it was bothering him during the Triple Crown. He's better now on that foot than he ever has been."

According to Barnes, Point Given in the days leading up to the race will gallop over Saratoga's main track early each morning to avoid the heat.

In other Travers news, trainer D. Wayne Lukas confirmed Tuesday that Mark Guidry will ride Jim Dandy winner Scorpion. Guidry replaces Jerry Bailey, who has ridden Scorpion to all four of his career victories, but chose to ride E Dubai in Saturday's Travers.

"I think he's a good fit on the horse; he's a good position rider and he finishes real," said Lukas, a two-time Travers winner, of Guidry.

Post positions were to be drawn on Wednesday and a field of eight was expected. There was a slim chance that Hadrian's Wall, a son of Storm Cat owned by Ross Gilbert, could also be entered. Hadrian's Wall, a $1.15 million yearling purchase, has won two of his last three starts, but is still eligible for a second-level allowance.

"We are looking at it, but I can't say we are running and I can't say we aren't running," trainer Mark Hennig said. "It's just a possibility."

Stevens to ride Red Bullet

With Bailey electing to ride Whitney winner Lido Palace in next month's Grade 1 Woodward at Belmont Park, trainer Joe Orseno said that Gary Stevens would pick up the mount on Red Bullet for that race.

"I called Tony Matos and asked him if he wanted to ride Red Bullet, and he didn't hesitate," Orseno said, referring to Stevens's agent. "I wish Jerry chose differently and we'll have to see what happens in the long run. I don't see Lido Palace getting ready for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, but that's what we're getting ready for."

Pletcher on major roll

By winning six races from 13 starters last week, trainer Todd Pletcher has turned around what was once shaping up as a very disappointing meeting. Pletcher's week included a three-win day Friday and a two-win afternoon Sunday. Five of the last seven horses he has saddled have won.

"We just happened to have a lot of horses doing well and in the right spots," said Pletcher, whose 10 wins at the meet put him third in the standings behind Bill Mott (13) and Lukas (12).

Pletcher, who won the Spa trainers' title in 1998 with 20 victories, said he will start "an ordinary amount" of runners over the final two weeks of the meet. Among them figures to be Warners, a 2-year-old colt who was narrowly beaten by In High Gear in what many viewed as the best juvenile maiden race run at Belmont this past summer.

Pletcher will send out Irving's Baby in Friday's Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap.

Dat You Miz Blue out of Ballerina

Vagrancy winner Dat You Miz Blue will miss Sunday's $250,000 Ballerina Handicap because trainer Jimmy Jerkens is unhappy with the results of blood work done on the filly.

Jerkens ordered the blood work after Dat You Miz Blue failed to breeze to his satisfaction last Thursday. The 4-year-old filly was timed in 1:16.45 for six furlongs over the training track. After the move, Jerkens said he was not pleased with the way Dat You Miz Blue finished the work.

"It was a very sluggish work and she was blowing after it," Jerkens said. "I knew something was amiss. Her blood showed a low white count.

"We backed off of her and will take blood again in a week and see if it has corrected itself," added Jerkens, who said his vet didn't recommend treatment at this time.

Dat You Miz Blue won the Grade 3 Vagrancy by 6 3/4 lengths over odds-on favorite Dream Supreme at Belmont Park on June 16. Dat You Miz Blue, a New York-bred, came back in Grade 3 Honorable Miss here Aug. 1 and she finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Big Bambu, who is not expected to run in the Ballerina.

The Grade 1 Ballerina field is shaping up on the small side. Dream Supreme, who won last year's seven-furlong Ballerina, and Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Spain were assigned high weight of 122 pounds. The only other confirmed starters are Country Hideaway (118) and Imadeed (113). Shine Again (113), who worked the fastest five furlongs over the main track Tuesday morning of 58.90 seconds, is possible.

Keats returns in King's Bishop

Keats, who was beaten 51 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby at 95-1, will make his first start since that race in Saturday's $200,000 King's Bishop, a Grade 1 on the Travers undercard.

Keats was scheduled to arrive in Saratoga Tuesday afternoon from Kentucky. Larry Melancon, Keats's regular rider, has the mount for trainer Niall O'Callaghan.

Keats won the Grade 2 Lexington, encouraging his connections to try him in the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby, he pressed the pace until the far turn before stopping badly and finishing 16th of 17 runners.

O'Callaghan said Keats grabbed a quarter leaving the starting gate, and was given 30 days off after the Derby.

The only time Keats competed at the seven-furlong distance of the King's Bishop was when he won a first-level allowance race by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:22.25 at Gulfstream Park in February.

"I'm confident he will fire his best, but he's not proven at seven furlongs against stakes horses," O'Callaghan said.

O'Callaghan said he hopes to use the King's Bishop as a means to prepare Keats for the $300,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Oct. 6.

"It's a mile and a sixteenth and he excelled at [that distance] in the Lexington," O'Callaghan said.

In other King's Bishop news, trainer Wayne Lukas said Mark Guidry will ride Buckle Down Ben. I Love Silver, who was scheduled to ship in from California, won't make the race.

The other expected starters are Bay Head King, City Zip, Illusioned, Shore Breeze, Squirtle Squirt, and The Goo.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson

Go to Saratoga coverage.