08/29/2001 12:00AM

In Point Given's case, the word 'great' isn't hyperbole

Email

PHILADELPHIA - The Beyer benchmark for serious consideration to the pantheon of greatness is 120. Point Given is closing fast.

The big horse got a career-best Beyer of 117 when he won the Travers Stakes last Saturday. And if you don't think Point Given can go even faster, you just have not been paying attention.

Point Given is ever so surely putting together one of the great 3-year-old seasons in years. In 1994, Holy Bull won the Hutcheson, Florida Derby, Metropolitan Mile, Dwyer, Haskell, Travers, and Woodward. It was, by any measure, an awesome season.

Point Given is in position to do even better. The colt has already won the San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell ,and Travers. What he has that Holy Bull did not have is two-thirds of the Triple Crown and a shot at the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Holy Bull was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup and trainer Jimmy Croll, knowing he already had Horse of the Year sewn up, chose not to supplement.

Holy Bull got a 115 when he won the Travers and a 116 in the Woodward. Before the Travers, Point Given's previous high Beyer was 114 in the Belmont.

Some may not really have understood the Travers. Consider these questions. Was there ever a moment in the race that Point Given did not look like a lock? Did you not get the sense that the colt could have accelerated and blown the field away if Gary Stevens had so chosen? Did the horse look at all tired after 1 1/4 miles?

What was missing was that instant acceleration we all love, a move that you don't forget. In this situation, that simply was not necessary. Only winning was necessary.

Generally, I don't believe jockeys when they say they could have won by more. Stevens insisted he could have won by 10 if he had opened up at the three-eighths pole. None of us knows what he feels and there really is no necessity to hype Point Given. I don't know about 10, but it absolutely could have been more if the big horse had been asked for his best stuff.

Point Given, of course, has a move. If you are not sure, get the tape of last Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The colt just about passed the entire field in the stretch only to lose by a nose. Saturday, Stevens said that might have been his most impressive race.

Check out the Preakness tape when Point Given nearly passed the entire field on the backstretch while racing into the fastest part of the pace.

What separates Point Given from his contemporaries is the length of his stride. He seems to be taking one for every two his opponents must take. That, in turn, must lead to his amazing stamina.

The fans at Saratoga weren't lined up for hours just to get a glimpse of Point Given on his way to the paddock because they did not believe in him. They clearly love him.

Greatness, however, is often bestowed too soon in this sport. Stevens is convinced we will only see the best of Point Given when he faces better competition. If he is right, we will all know what greatness looks like soon enough.

BEST BEYERS

RACES MORE THAN 1 MILE, DIRT 1992-PRESENT

BEYER NO.HORSETRACKRACE DATE

126Formal GoldSARWhitney H.08/02/1997

126Will's WaySARWhitney H.08/02/1997

126GentlemenPIMPimlico Special H.05/10/1997

125BertrandoBELWoodward09/18/1993

125Formal GoldBELWoodward09/20/1997

125Skip AwayPIMPimlico Special H.05/10/1997

124Formal GoldMTHIselin H.08/23/1997

123Tejano RunHIAWidener H.03/22/1997

123Silver CharmTPKentucky Cup Classic09/26/1998

123Wild RushTPKentucky Cup Classic09/26/1998

123Best PalSASanta Anita H.03/07/1992

122Sky JackSANative Diver H.12/03/2000

122Formal GoldSUFMassachusetts H.05/31/1997

122Skip AwaySUFMassachusetts H.05/31/1997

121Concerned MinisterFGTenacious H.12/03/2000

121Rock and RollBELAlw40000n2x06/13/1998

121OrmsbyAQUExcelsior H.04/26/1997

121Best PalOPOaklawn H.04/11/1992

121Crafty CashOPOaklawn H.04/11/1992

121CigarOPOaklawn H.04/15/1995

121Best PalSASan Fernando01/18/1992

121Skip AwaySUFMassachusetts H.05/30/1998

121GentlemenDMRPacific Classic08/09/1997

121GentlemenHOLHollywood Gold Cup06/29/1997