Updated on 09/15/2011 1:46PM

Point Given still top of 3-year-old heap


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Point Given was scheduled to head back to California on Tuesday, two days after his victory in the $1.5 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park further secured his lock on the 3-year-old colt championship and increased his chances of being named Horse of the Year.

His victory restored order to a division that was thrown a curve when Congaree, Point Given's stablemate, finished third as the prohibitive favorite at Saratoga in Saturday's Jim Dandy Stakes. He suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Although trainer Bob Baffert has yet to rule out Saratoga's Aug. 25 Travers Stakes for Point Given's next start, he was not leaning toward the Travers before this past weekend, and was eager on Monday to get the colt back to Del Mar and away from the searing heat here. "We'll get back out there and see what he looks like," Baffert said at Saratoga. The year-end goal for Point Given remains the Breeders' Cup Classic, highlight of the World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

More certain to run in the Travers are A P Valentine, Dollar Bill, E Dubai, This Fleet Is Due, Volponi, and Scorpion, the upset winner of the Jim Dandy. Free of Love, who was second in the Jim Dandy, likely will go to the Pennsylvania Derby, according to trainer Richard Violette. Neither Touch Tone nor Burning Roma, who were second and third in the Haskell, are expected for the Travers.

Over the next few weeks, Baffert has some patching up to do. Point Given was wearing a bar shoe on his troublesome left hind foot, and though Baffert said on Monday that the shoe was merely "protective," it was the first time Point Given has worn a bar shoe in a race.

"It's a real light bar," Baffert said. "We had to cut a whole quarter out after the Belmont. He popped an abscess that must have been in there awhile."

Baffert also needs to mend his relationship with jockey Gary Stevens, who hurled a fusillade of epithets at Baffert following the Haskell. Although they had just won the richest race run in North America this year, Stevens was angry about a prerace incident that Stevens apparently took as an insult.

Point Given has a habit of lugging in at the top of the stretch. He did it when he won the Preakness Stakes, so in the Belmont, Stevens made sure he had the whip in his left hand when he came off the turn, and that helped keep Point Given straight and true.

On Sunday, Baffert forgot to remind Stevens in the paddock to have the whip in his left hand when he turned into the stretch. So, after the horses left the paddock, Baffert phoned Monmouth's stewards and asked if they would relay the message via the outrider.

In what must be considered a remarkable and egregious precedent, the stewards acquiesced to Baffert's wishes. Yet by the time the message passed from Baffert to the stewards to the outrider and then to Stevens, the message had become, "Make sure you have the whip in your left hand leaving the gate."

When Stevens returned to the winner's circle following the race, Baffert asked Stevens, "Did you get my message?"

Stevens exploded. "Don't you ever do that again," is the G-rated version of his reply. Stevens left in a hurry after removing the saddle from Point Given, and was still steaming 20 minutes after the race, while waiting for his car outside the Monmouth Park valet parking area.

Stevens also was aboard Congaree, who injured his left knee in the Jim Dandy. Congaree effortlessly cruised up to the leaders entering the final turn, but was dull the final quarter-mile. He was lame at the barn after the race, and his knee had swelling, but no fracture turned up on X-rays. Congaree had a small chip removed from that knee nearly one year ago.

"He wrenched his knee. We're going to give him some time," said John Adger, the racing manager for Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable, which bred and owns Congaree. "He's out for the year. Thank God nothing's broken." Adger said Congaree would go to Stonerside's Paris, Ky., farm on Friday. He said Congaree, a son of Arazi, likely will try turf next year.

Stonerside still will be represented in the Travers by the Bill Mott-trained This Fleet Is Due, who closed fastest of all in the Haskell to finish fourth. Pat Day will remain with This Fleet Is Due. Trainer Nick Zito had been considering Day or John Velazquez to replace Victor Espinoza on A P Valentine, and said on Monday that Velazquez would have the mount.

Scorpion likely will need a new rider for the Travers, since Jerry Bailey, who is 4 for 5 on Scorpion, is expected to ride E Dubai. But D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Scorpion, is too resilient to care. On Friday morning, the day after Padua Stables removed most of its 2-year-olds from Lukas's care, Lukas was remarking about the chances of Scorpion in next day's Jim Dandy, saying, "I've made my living not running where I'm supposed to."

"If Jerry elects to ride someone else, there'll be some top riders available," he said Sunday.

Scorpion appears to have recovered from the serious injury to his left front hoof that he suffered in the Santa Anita Derby. "Nickel and dime stuff have kept him from getting where he should be," Lukas said.

- additional reporting by Ryan Goldberg and David Grening

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