Updated on 09/15/2011 12:53PM

Vulnerable or unbeatable?

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Point Given, who will again race with a bar shoe, trains Wednesday under Pepe Aragon.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There are two schools of thought regarding Point Given entering Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

One theory is that Point Given's hard-fought, half-length victory showed an air of vulnerability that did not exist in his dominant victories in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The second theory maintains if Point Given was ever ripe to lose, the Haskell was the race.

"If he's the Point Given that ran in the Belmont and Preakness, we're in for a tough afternoon," said Rick Violette, trainer of Travers hopeful Free of Love. "If he's the horse that ran in the Haskell, it's a wide-open race."

Point Given drew post 7 on Wednesday and was installed as the 3-5 favorite for the Travers by Mike Watchmaker, the national handicapper for Daily Racing Form. Watchmaker made E Dubai, the Dwyer winner, the 6-1 second choice, followed by Dollar Bill at 8-1.

Six of the nine horses will have new riders for the Travers. Scorpion, the Jim Dandy winner, goes from Jerry Bailey to Mark Guidry, as Bailey rides E Dubai. John Velazquez replaces Victor Espinoza aboard Preakness and Belmont Stakes runner-up A P Valentine. Jorge Chavez replaces Pat Day on Preakness and Belmont fourth-place finisher Dollar Bill. Day, a three-time Travers winner, climbs aboard Free of Love, whom Richard Migliore rode in the Jim Dandy. Migliore opted to stick with impressive allowance winner Volponi.

Harrisand, making his dirt debut for trainer Bobby Frankel, and Hadrian's Wall, an 11th-hour entry, complete the field.

The Travers tops an 11-race card that includes the Grade 1 King's Bishop for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs and the Grade 2 Fourstardave, at 1 1/16 miles on turf. First post on Travers Day is 12:30 p.m., and all three stakes will be shown during a 90-minute broadcast on ESPN beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. There will be a pick-four wager on the final four races of the day - including all three stakes - with a minimum guaranteed pool of $500,000.

When Point Given ran in the Haskell, it was his first race since his 12 1/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes. In the 57 days between races, trainer Bob Baffert estimated that Point Given walked for 24 days. Following the Belmont, Point Given popped an abscess in his left hind foot that required time off, and he was later equipped with a bar shoe, which he wore in the Haskell and will wear again Saturday.

"If he was going to get beat, that was that race," Baffert said. "I had to get him ready really quick. I didn't want to tell too many people I was rushing him. It was a very stressful day. We all knew he was short; we thought he could pull it off. Horses don't do what he did coming off the pace on a loose track that day."

Violette sees the presence of a bar shoe on Point Given as a potential sign of weakness.

"There's no question Bob would prefer not to run with a bar shoe behind," Violette said. "How much it affects him, is it half of 1 percent or 10 percent? He was good enough in the Haskell to overcome it. We'll see if he'll overcome it in the Travers."

Free of Love may hold the key to Saturday's Travers, run at 1 1/4 miles. With E Dubai as the main speed in the race, many trainers hope Free of Love - who was on the lead in the Jim Dandy - presses the pace. But Violette didn't enter to help the competition.

"We're not going to set it up for anybody; we're in to win it," Violette said. "If E Dubai gets loose, that's not going to be our problem. We're running to get the mile and a quarter. If [E Dubai] gets loose, he gets loose, and if we don't run him down and are second, so be it."

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