Taking A Page From The Bald Eagle's Book
By Jude T. Feld
Bob Baffert and Gary Stevens exchange congratulations after the San Felipe.
Bob Baffert wins the big ones. Tied with the Bald Eagle in Kentucky Derby victories at two a piece, the Silver Fox is on the verge of taking his third with Point Given, whom he has trained the "Whittingham Way" -- with planning and perfect execution.
Obviously impressed with Point Given's physical attributes and cocky demeanor at two, Baffert etched his plan in stone soon after the colt ran second by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) -- charting the Hollywood Futurity (G1), only two Derby-prep races and then the first Saturday in May.
After taking the Hollywood Futurity over Millennium Wind, Point Given was put away for a while.
"We're in prevent defense," Baffert was heard saying when asked where his stable star was hiding. "I don't want anything to happen to him during this bad weather."
Point Given's training chart was a clinic. It resembled a copy of Whittingham's -- solid works on safe racetracks, evenly spaced, culminating with two sharp seven-furlong preps and the trademark Whittingham blowout leading up to Santa Anita's San Felipe S. (G3).
Excited, but edgy on raceday, Baffert said, "I just want to get it over with." Prevent defense was over. Let the games begin.
Gary Stevens allowed the perfectly prepared Point Given to loop his San Felipe rivals five wide and the pair cruised to an impressive victory. Baffert was noticeably relieved after the race, but was keeping his eye on the prize.
"One down, two to go," he said.
An easy half in :47 1/5, breezing, and a sharp three-quarters in 1:12 five days before the Santa Anita Derby (G1) clued everybody in that Point Given was not to be denied. Keeping his Derby Draw Breakfast comments to a minimum, Baffert held the quiet confidence that victory was just around the corner.
Despite an overnight storm, track superintendent Steve Wood had the racing surface in tip-top shape, albeit a little on the slow side. There was no raining on the Point Given parade, however, as he moved into a different dimension. Ordinarily a laggard in the early going, Point Given pressed the early pace set by Crafty C.T. and put that rival away while drawing out to a 5 1/2-length romp, stopping the clock in 1:47 3/5 and only three-fifths of a second off the stakes record. Gary Stevens tapped the handsome chestnut son of Thunder Gulch at the wire, asking him to gallop out the Kentucky Derby distance, which he did with effortless ease.
While his opposition has been knocking themselves out in prep races, Point Given has had plenty of rest and gets the benefit of four weeks between starts, while some of his chief rivals will be racing back in two or three.
Some people say that Bob Baffert is just lucky and we all know that races are not run on paper, but barring the unforeseen, Point Given will be at his all time best on Derby day because Bob Baffert has prepared him, "the Whittingham Way."
And that's bad news for the rest of the field.
Point Given worked a half-mile in :46 4/5 at Santa Anita on Tuesday April 17th under Dana Barnes and arrived at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning.