Even though Point Given's margin of victory wasn't nearly as great as it had been in the Santa Anita Derby or Belmont Stakes, Gary Stevens had his easiest ride yet on the country's best 3-year-old Saturday at Saratoga.
"It was the most comfortable ride I've ever had on him," the Hall of Fame jockey said after Point Given defeated E Dubai by 31/2 lengths in the $1-million Travers.
In giving trainer Bob Baffert his first win in the Grade I, the Thunder Gulch colt closed in on horse-of-the-year honors.
Completing the 11/4 miles in 2:01 2/5 before a record Travers crowd of 60,486, Point Given, the 3-5 favorite, earned his ninth win in 13 starts. The $600,000 payday boosted his earnings to $3,968,500.
Less than three weeks after he struggled to a half-length win in the Haskell at Monmouth Park, the striking chestnut overcame a slow start to quickly get into striking position, then took over from E Dubai, the pacesetter and 4-1 second choice, in the final furlong and drew away.
"I was very confident coming into this race," said Stevens. "I knew he would be better than he was last time. I still don't think you've seen the best of him. I think the better the competition, the more he is going to show."
In a crowded winner's circle, there was nothing but smiles, a reversal from the Haskell when Baffert and Stevens exchanged words in the aftermath. The trainer wasn't happy with the jockey's ride in the Haskell, but later backpedaled.
"I think he's the best horse I've ever had," said Baffert. "He knows he's a great horse. He's cool. It's a pleasure to watch this horse.
"We knew the Haskell was a tightener, a prep for this race. He was ready and Gary rode him beautifully. The further he goes ... he just loves it."
Before the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27, Point Given, owned by Prince Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp., is likely to have one more start. It will probably come in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 7 at Santa Anita, the only track where Point Given has won more than once.
E Dubai, who was making his first appearance in a Grade I, wound up 11/4 lengths ahead of Dollar Bill.
The race before the Travers, Squirtle Squirt, the 3-2 favorite, made his first start outside California a winning one, rolling to a 31/4-length victory over Illusionary in the $200,000 King's Bishop Stakes.
Owned by David Lanzman and trained by Bobby Frankel, the 3-year-old son of Marquetry made the lead immediately under jockey Jerry Bailey and never looked like a loser.
He completed the seven furlongs in 1:21 4/5 in winning for the seventh time in 12 starts.
City Zip, the 3-1 second choice, finished third in his first loss in five races at Saratoga.
In the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap, Dr. Kashnikow, a 6-1 shot, beat 27-1 outsider Tubrok by three-quarters of a length in 1:39 1/5 for the 1 1/16miles on turf.
The King's Bishop wasn't the richest race Frankel won Saturday.
Keeping his stakes roll going, the Hall of Famer won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap for a second consecutive year with 3-1 third choice Timboroa.
Not only did Frankel win the race, but he also finished 2-3 with entrymates Northern Quest, who had won the Del Mar Handicap in 2000, and Super Quercus.
Ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., Timboroa, who had finished fourth as the favorite in the Eddie Read Handicap earlier this month, stalked the pace set by favored Kudos, took over from that one around the turn and went on to win by one length.
The final time for the 1 3/8miles on turf was a stakes-record 2:12 2/5, eclipsing by a tick the mark Northern Quest had established last year.
Owned by Ed Gann, Timboroa won for the ninth time in 21 starts, but it was only his second win in eight tries since he came to the United States late last summer.
Kudos, the 17-10 favorite, faded to sixth in the field of seven.