How the Belmont was won
By Ed McNamara
Special to ESPN.com
ELMONT, N.Y. -- The 133rd Belmont Stakes had the simplicity and power of a first-round knockout and the brutal beauty of a Shaquille O'Neal slam dunk. The winner looked as invincible as Tiger Woods when he has his "A" game working, a giant with no rivals and nothing left to prove. It was Point Given first, the rest nowhere. Nothing happening behind him mattered at any point in "The Test of the Champion."
The huge chestnut son of 1995 Belmont winner Thunder Gulch outdid his old man on Saturday with a 12 1/4-length romp, the biggest margin in 13 years, in a time of 2:26.56, tied for the fourth-fastest in Belmont history.There was nothing subtle about it.
"We knew he was a great horse," trainer Bob Baffert said, "and today was his day to really put on a show for everybody. That was the easiest mile-and-a-half race I've ever been involved in. He looked great."
When did Point Given have the Triple Crown finale locked up? Technically, when he accelerated five-wide to the lead leaving the 6-furlong pole, but it was over long before that. Halfway down the backstretch, when he was stalking the cheap-speed duo of pacesetter Balto Star and presser Buckle Down Ben, jockey Gary Stevens was in complete command. It looked as if he could blow by the first two at any time, and only eventual runner-up A P Valentine ever had a chance to make a serious run at the champ.
Well, at least it appeared that way for a dozen strides or so, especially if you had bet on A P Valentine. Entering the stretch, the only question was whether A P Valentine could hold off the weak late bid by Derby winner Monarchos, because nothing was catching the 6-5 favorite. It was Stevens' third Belmont win and Baffert's first in five tries, and they'll never have an easier one.
"I gave him his head going into the first turn and pushed A P Valentine down inside of me," Stevens said. "Then I got to where I wanted to be and pretty much galloped him to the quarter pole.
"Bob and I got this horse figured out. He wants to be towing me along with confidence."
Point Given's runaways in the Preakness and Belmont validated the pre-Derby hype that he could be a superhorse. They also made his fifth-place flop in the Derby, the only time in his 11-race career that he has finished worse than second, that much more galling.
"It's bittersweet," Stevens said. "I feel that this horse, when it's all said and done, should have a Triple Crown. It's not going to be there. But we've got a long year left and some classics left.
"I think that when it's all said and done, people are going to know what a great horse he is. He put on a show today, an unbelievable show."