Updated on 09/15/2011 12:24PM

Round 4 could be Travers

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Tammy Faulkner/Horsephotos
Point Given, under Gary Stevens, is alone on the lead in Saturday's Belmont Stakes. He won by 12 1/4 lengths.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Point Given was an overwhelming winner of Saturday's Belmont Stakes, which established him as the clear leader among the nation's 3-year-olds, and a leading contender for Horse of the Year. But the trainers of the race's second- and third-place finishers are still looking forward to rematches in the coming months.

Bob Baffert, who trains Point Given, said his mammoth colt would likely point for the $1 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 at Saratoga. That, according to their trainers, is also the next major goal for both A P Valentine and Monarchos, who finished second and third, in the Belmont. While both Nick Zito, who trains A P Valentine, and John T. Ward Jr., who trains Monarchos, praised the dazzling performance of Point Given, they said they were not going to surrender before the year's midpoint.

"We can't worry where Point Given is going," said Zito, who said A P Valentine would likely make his next start in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes on Aug. 4 at Saratoga. "We've got a Grade 1 horse."

Ward said Monarchos, the Kentucky Derby winner, would run "no sooner than the Jim Dandy.

"I feel like a train ran over me," Ward said.

"The next time we meet, everyone ought to be on top of their game, because no Triple Crown will be at stake," Ward added, meaning that the Triple Crown race schedule dictates a hectic itinerary in the spring. "If you get a 3-year-old past these races without blowing his mind, you should have a nice future in front of you."

Point Given bounced out of the Belmont in remarkably fresh shape. He appeared bright and alert when he got on a horse van Sunday morning at Belmont Park. He was flown that morning to Churchill Downs, where he will remain this week before flying back to Baffert's base at Santa Anita.

"I'm glad he finally showed up. That was his coming out party," Baffert said of Point Given, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 114, the best of his career. "We made a statement. We ran up the score."

Point Given proved himself best of an outstanding group of 3-year-olds. The quality of the top level of this crop is best exemplified by the fact that of the nine runners in the Belmont, the first four finishers - Point Given, A P Valentine, Monarchos, and Dollar Bill - were the only ones to run in all three Triple Crown races.

"Watching those horses in the test barn, I was talking to Nick Zito, and we were talking about how resilient they are," Ward said.

All the Belmont runners will get a brief break now. Trainer Todd Pletcher said that Balto Star, who was eighth, will not race until the fall, and that Invisible Ink, who was fifth, might go "off the beaten path" in search of his first stakes victory. Sixth-place finisher Thunder Blitz, according to trainer Joe Orseno, has options that could include turf racing this fall, though a race like the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Aug. 5 is a possibility.

Orseno had nothing but praise for Point Given. "He proved himself to be a truly good horse," Orseno said. "Nobody was going to beat him. He ran like the horse he was supposed to be. He ran like a champion."

Point Given gave Baffert his first Belmont victory. He had suffered heartbreaking defeats in both 1997 and 1998, when Silver Charm and Real Quiet finished second in the Belmont after capturing both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. In each case, those horses missed both immortality and a $5 million bonus from Visa, the Triple Crown's sponsor.

Like Silver Charm and Real Quiet, Point Given, who won the Preakness, captured two-thirds of the Triple Crown, a feat Baffert has now accomplished three times in the last five years. "We've left $15 million out there," Baffert said. Yet as difficult as the losses were with Silver Charm and Real Quiet, Baffert said this year's Triple Crown is tougher to accept.

"Real Quiet was pretty disappointing," he said of that colt's nose loss to Victory Gallop, "but this year's Derby was painful."

Baffert is convinced Point Given could have won the Triple Crown had Baffert and jockey Gary Stevens used the same strategy in the Derby that they employed in the Preakness and Belmont. Baffert's thoughts and emotions swung wildly during and after the Belmont. He was elated that Point Given won, and was looking forward to the colt tackling older horses this fall, yet was apologetic and self-deprecating for losing the Triple Crown.

"I'm sorry I let you down," Baffert said. "I'm going to write a new book: How to [mess] up the Triple Crown.

"This will keep me hungry. It'll keep me from getting bored," he added.

Point Given came into the Kentucky Derby off an easy victory in the Santa Anita Derby, in which Stevens used Point Given the first part of the race to establish position and stay close to front-running Crafty C.T. Because of that, Point Given was ridden in a similar way in the Derby; Stevens and Baffert both believed that Point Given's biggest threat was his Baffert-trained stablemate, Congaree, and they wanted to stay within hailing distance of that colt.

But Point Given flattened out after racing close to a record-setting pace in the Derby. So in the Preakness, Stevens let Point Given lope along under his own power early. Point Given got stronger as the race progressed, and won going away. He was ridden the same way in the Belmont. The only reason he was closer to the pace in the Belmont is that the fractions were slower.

"We didn't know his style. If he'd have been back there with Monarchos," Baffert said, referring to the Derby, "he might have run them down."

Baffert was so puzzled with Point Given's finish in the Derby that he had Point Given sent to a Lexington, Ky., clinic for an examination. Once assured Point Given was fine, Baffert went on, hoping the Derby was an aberration. The Preakness was affirmation of Baffert's opinion of the colt.

"The Preakness, all the emotion came out," Baffert said. "The older you get, the more you appreciate winning these races."

Throughout the Triple Crown, Baffert had to monitor a skin rash on Point Given's left rear foot, and deal with the high-strung colt's personality. Point Given reared up days before all three Triple Crown races, most alarmingly the morning before the Preakness. In the weeks between the Preakness and Belmont, his rambunctious, playful nature resulted in stitches over his left eye and a cut on his right flank.

He was outfitted with a glue-on shoe on his left rear foot for the Belmont. Yet he thrived through the rigors of the Triple Crown, appearing to grow stronger with every race.

"He's got all the ingredients. Size, style, everything," Baffert said. "He's big, he's bad, he's good."