09/05/2001 11:00PM

Point Given's next workplace a hot topic

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The principal topic of comment around the Bluegrass the past week has been Point Given. First came the unfortunate news that the big chestnut son of Thunder Gulch had injured a tendon and been retired. But not far behind has been the considerable comment and speculation about where Point Given would go to stud.

As a racer, Point Given was the season's talking horse, the winner of two classics and an impressive victor in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in his last start. But he is also of great interest to breeders because "he is an impressive racehorse with an imposing physique," said Rob Whiteley, director of operations for Foxfield.

Beaten only once this year, in the Kentucky Derby, Point Given has proven himself an outstanding colt, the sort who makes the pulse of many breeders race. Rick Trontz, owner of Hopewell Farm near Midway, Ky., said, "Point Given was great for racing and had a big following among the fans. It's a shame we didn't get to the bottom of his ability. He was still growing and improving and was just a big kid playing with them on the track."

Given the winter off after his victory in the Hollywood Futurity, Point Given drew commentary all year. From his relatively late start on the Triple Crown grind to his loss in Louisville to his crushing successes in the Belmont and the Travers, he was the horse who made people want to talk, made them express an opinion, made the game an exciting and fascinating puzzle for thousands of fans.

Nor are his fans limited to the racetrack. Allen Kershaw, general manager of Gainsborough Farm outside Versailles, Ky., concurred that "Point Given is a very, very good horse and sure to be popular with breeders." This last consideration is most important, because the colt's level of popularity among breeders will be a strong factor in deciding what fee he can stand for at stud.

And that figure will be determined largely by what the commercial breeders are willing to pay for seasons to Point Given. Breeders looking to sell yearlings are always more aggressive in getting to the fresh young sires, because the market consistently rewards first-year and second-year sires with better auction prices than horses who have more exposure.

By contrast, home breeders such as Gainsborough are more conservative in the nature of the stallions they use. Kershaw said, "We try to breed 90 percent of our mares to proven stallions because [as a home breeder] you have to live with what you breed. And if you can improve your odds with the proven stallion, you have to go with him."

The commercial market can be more speculative because it is trying to capitalize on public awareness of a top horse and buyers' willingness to pay a premium for one of his offspring.

As breeders and farm owners try to place Point Given in a continuum of value for stud fee and share price, they will make their case to Richard Mulhall of the Thoroughbred Corp. and the colt's owner, Prince Ahmed Salman. Mulhall said, "Several groups are interested in him, but nothing's settled. I'll be coming into Lexington to sit down with them, as will the Prince, and we'll see what they propose specifically and make a decision then."

Mulhall was unsure what he would hear from the different entities making a pitch for Point Given, but he noted that "we're most certainly not going to sell the whole horse and might not sell any of him." Those decisions would depend on a number of different factors, he indicated, but "we should know something in the next 10 days or so."