ELMONT, N.Y. - Bob Baffert shook his head in disbelief.
"He drew the outside again," muttered the white-haired trainer.
Yesterday, Point Given, the Baffert-trained winner of the Preakness, drew Post 9, the outside position yesterday for the 133rd running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park.
For Point Given, the hard-running son of Thunder Gulch, that was the third time in this series of Triple Crown races that he drew the outside starting slot. Point Given drew Post 17 in the Kentucky Derby and Post 11 in the Preakness.
He was favored in both races, finishing fifth in the Derby two weeks before winning the Preakness at Pimlico. He will likely be favored in the Belmont despite his outside starting assignment. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
"You can't worry about post position," Baffert said. "If the horse shows up, and if he's ridden patiently, he should be all right. Point Given, he's given me all the signs that he's going to show up."
Point Given arrived at Belmont Park yesterday morning after a flight from Louisville, Ky. Baffert prepared Point Given for the Belmont at Churchill Downs. Dollar Bill and Buckle Down Ben traveled on the same flight. All the Belmont horses have now settled into their stalls at this track on Long Island.
Point Given stepped off the van from the airport with four stitches over a cut on his forehead. He also sported a cut on his side. Baffert said the large colt sustained the scrapes playing in his stall at Churchill Downs.
"He's just a big kid," Baffert said.
The Belmont features four horses who ran in the first two legs of the Triple Crown (the Derby winner Monarchos, Point Given, A P Valentine and Dollar Bill), three who ran in just the Derby (Invisible Ink, Thunder Blitz and Balto Star) and two who will test Triple Crown waters for the first time (Buckle Down Ben and Dr Greenfield).
Buckle Down Ben gives the trainer D. Wayne Lukas his first entrant in the current Triple Crown series. The son of Devil His Due earned his spot in the Belmont with a hard-fought victory in an allowance race May 27 at Churchill Downs.
Dr Greenfield is an Irish-bred son of Dr Devious, making his first start in the United States and his second start on dirt. Team Valor, the syndicate that campaigned Captain Bodgit, bought Dr Greenfield in December with an eye toward the Belmont.
Monarchos, who faltered in the Preakness after his smashing win in the Derby, is the 5-2 second choice in the Belmont's morning line. His trainer, John Ward Jr., brought Monarchos straight to Belmont Park from Pimlico, preferring to train the Maria's Mon colt on the surface over which he will race.
Ward said he believes that trainers who seldom race at Belmont (i.e. Baffert) and horses who don't train over the track (i.e. Point Given) will be at a "severe disadvantage" in the Belmont Stakes.
Asked to respond to that, Baffert smiled and said, "That's my out if I get beat."
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y. When: Saturday. Post time: 6:04 p.m. Purse: $1 million. Distance: 1 1/2 miles. TV: Chs. 11, 4, 5 p.m.
PP Horse Trainer Jockey Record Earnings Last race Odds
1 Invisible Ink Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 8: 3-2-1 $385,560 2nd Kentucky Derby 8-1
2 Balto Star Todd Pletcher Chris McCarron 9: 4-0-1 720,190 14th Kentucky Derby 15-1
3 Dollar Bill Dallas Stewart Pat Day 10: 3-2-1 503,696 4th Preakness Stakes 6-1
4 Thunder Blitz Joe Orseno Jerry Bailey 9: 2-2-2 243,450 4th Kentucky Derby 10-1
5 Monarchos John Ward Jr. Jorge Chavez 8: 4-1-1 1,605,630 6th Preakness Stakes 5-2
6 Buckle Down Ben D. Wayne Lukas Corey Nakatani 8: 3-1-2 178,340 1st allw. Churchill Downs 30-1
7 Dr Greenfield Gerald Butler Edgar Prado 4: 3-0-0 61,936 1st Dee Stakes (England) 30-1
8 A P Valentine Nick Zito Victor Espinoza 9: 3-1-2 568,170 2nd Preakness Stakes 5-1
9 Point Given Bob Baffert Gary Stevens 10: 6-3-0 1,868,500 1st Preakness Stakes 8-5
Note: Record indicates total races and first-, second- and third-place finishes.