What happened to Point Given in the Kentucky Derby?
That’s the question people have been asking in the aftermath of the colt’s smashing performance in the Belmont Stakes that followed his victory in the Preakness.
One theory is that jockey Gary Stevens kept the horse too close to the torrid early Derby pace and then moved too soon with him. This doesn’t hold water for this observer. Stevens kept the horse reasonably reserved from the lead, moved at the right time but the horse just flattened out.
A more plausible explanation is that Point Given simply was not trained to do his best at Louisville. This may sound like heresy to admirers of Bob Baffert but look at the facts. Point Given had two races at Santa Anita. The opposition was of such poor quality that these races were nothing more or less than public workouts. The most recent of things was a full month before the Derby. Point Given came to Churchill Downs without a meaningful race under his belt that could serve as a foundation for a big Kentucky Derby effort.
Baffert, of course, cannot be blamed for the mediocre quality of the three-year-olds that were based at Santa Anita during the winter but - and this is admittedly hindsight - Point Given might have been better served if his final Derby prep had come at Oaklawn Park, Keeneland or Aqueduct.
In any event, Point Given stands head and shoulders above the rest of his generation. If he’s to lose another race this year, it will be to an older horse sometime in the fall. Until then, no 3-year-old will come close to him.
Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of "Seabiscuit, An American Legend," by Laura Hillenbrand. The book, which has been on various best seller lists, is more than just the tale of a champion thoroughbred that became an American icon. It’s also the story of how racing was conducted in this country during the first half of the 20th Century and is replete with characters like cowboys, movie stars, society millionaires and backstretch vagabonds. The author did a terrific job of research. Published by Random House, the book retails for $24.95 and is well worth the price.
Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, asserts that if you go through the 125 years of baseball covered by The Sporting News you will find that the club owners have been consistent in three positions: 1. No team ever has enough pitching; 2. Today’s players don’t match up with those of yesteryear; and 3. No club is ever making any real money.
Fehr was part of a blue ribbon panel that convened at Washington University in St. Louis to ponder "The Economics of Baseball." Some of the other panelists were Bob Costas, George Will, St. Louis Cardinal president Mark Lamping, City of St. Louis controller Darlene Green and University of Chicago economist Dr. Allen R. Sanderson. The principal topics discussed were "Free Agency and Collective Bargaining," "Revue Sharing," and "Stadium Financing." Obviously such a conclave produced some divergent views but to this observer there were a number of items that became abundantly clear.
The negotiations that will commence at the end of the season between the players and the owners will be long and hard. The issues are extremely complex. Revenue sharing and the salary cap are inextricably tied together and there will be no revenue sharing plan adopted without the union’s approval. Even though Commissioner Bud Selig has imposed a gag order upon the owners under threat of a $1 million fine, history tells us that the owners have never been truly united in their negotiations with the union and in the final analysis, the owners always lose.
Talk about contraction - baseball closing down in a failing franchise or two - is just that - talk. At best it is a bargaining chip, albeit a weak one, to use in negotiations with the union and at worst such action might spur Congress to take a look at baseball’s anti-trust exemption.
The sharpest difference of opinion at the meeting concerned the Cardinals, who are trying to get the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri to help them build a new stadium. Lamping pointed out the advantages economically to the city for a new stadium but Prof. Sanderson countered by saying that a new stadium brings no discernible economic benefits to any area. He said if you want to build a stadium, do it for whatever reason you can think of but not for any economic advantage as a new stadium will cost taxpayers $25 million annually. Controller Green was sympathetic to the Cardinals but emphasized that she was elected to preserve the city’s financial integrity and that was her main priority. In seeking taxpayer dollars for a new stadium, the Cardinals are batting a sticky wicket.