06/07/2001 12:00AM

Watchmaker's Belmont Analysis


The impressive middle move that Point Given made to win the Preakness Stakes three weeks ago is the kind of move that often wins the Belmont Stakes. Point Given will use just such a move to win this Belmont Stakes.

How impressive was Point Given's big move down the backstretch in the Preakness? It was very impressive visually, as Point Given - the failed favorite in the Kentucky Derby - swept up at least five wide to go from ninth, 10 lengths off the lead, to third, just a neck off the lead, in only a half-mile. His move was even more impressive when put up against the clock. After running his first quarter-mile in around 26 seconds, Point Given shaded 23 seconds in his second quarter-mile, and got his third quarter-mile in just over 23 seconds. When you take that, combine it with the fact that Point Given launched his move into the hottest fraction in the Preakness, and that he still drew away in the final furlong to win by more than two lengths while seemingly playing with his competition, it makes for a very imposing force in the Belmont.

Everyone knows that given a clean break Balto Star is going to the lead in the Belmont. In the hopes of outrunning his sprint pedigree, Balto Star will try to slow the pace up as much as possible. Look for Point Given to make his move going into the far turn, quickly overtaking the leaders and opening a clear lead that he will never relinquish.

What can you say about Dollar Bill? He had yet another brutal trip in the Preakness, checking twice down the backstretch, dropping back to last, and coming ridiculously wide into the stretch. He still managed to close fast and be fourth, and a case could be made that with a fair shake he could have been right there at the wire with Point Given.

One would think that with a field of only nine in the Belmont, in a race over America's most expansive racetrack, there would be less opportunity for Dollar Bill to get in trouble again. But he has been put into so many jackpots that this poor animal may now think he's supposed to look for trouble if he isn't steered into it. Still, even if he finally gets a clean trip, the feeling is that Dollar Bill isn't quite as good as Point Given.

To a certain extent, A P Valentine finally justified the faith of his many vocal supporters when he ran his best race to date finishing second in the Preakness. But he is likely to be an underlay Saturday given his victory over the track in the Champagne last fall. And remember, A P Valentine would have been third in the Preakness with any kind of ride on Dollar Bill.

I believe that Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos didn't handle the Pimlico track when sixth in the Preakness. On the other hand, I question whether he got enough out of the Preakness to be at peak for this test. Plus, he will not get the ideal pace set up that played such a key role in his Derby score.