Giacamo looks for second jewel in unlikely Triple Crown

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The stage is set for what could be the most improbable run in Triple Crown history.

Giacomo pulled off the second-biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history and now heads to Baltimore for next Saturday's Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The gutsy gray colt's victory at 50-1 odds did nothing to scare off his rivals, though, and Giacomo probably won't even be the favorite in an expected full field of 14 horses for the 1 3/16th-mile race at Pimlico Race Course.

But if the 3-year-old son of Holy Bull comes away with another shocking win, then it's on to the Belmont Stakes three weeks later for a Triple Crown attempt.

Sound familiar? It should.

The past three Derby winners -- Smarty Jones, Funny Cide and War Emblem -- and six of the last eight went on to take the Preakness but fell short in the Belmont, leaving thoroughbred racing still looking for its first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

If Giacomo gets a Triple try, it would be the most unlikely of all.

In 1999, Charismatic became the Derby winner with the longest odds to win the Preakness and enter the Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line. Charismatic won at 31-1 odds, then took the Preakness at 8-1 odds before finishing third in the Belmont.

Donerail produced the biggest upset in Derby history in 1913, winning at 91-1. But Donerail didn't run in the Preakness, held 10 days after the Derby.

Gallahadion won the 1940 Derby at 35-1 odds, but was third in the Preakness.

Trainer Bobby Frankel says it's hard to imagine Giacomo winning.

"But who knows? When you least expect it. ... " he said. "After the Derby, anybody that's put in the starting gate has a chance."

Warns trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner and 0-for-3 in Triple tries: "Don't count out Giacomo. That's a very good horse."

Then there's Giacomo's owner, A&M Records founder Jerry Moss.

"We think he's still progressing," Moss said. "He had to surmount tremendous obstacles to win the race, and we think maybe the best is yet to come."

Giacomo, who won only one race before the Kentucky Derby, won't have it easy in the Preakness. Afleet Alex, who was third in the Derby, is the likely favorite.

The first full field in the Preakness since 1992 seems certain. Other than Giacomo, as many as 10 other Derby horses are being considered, as well as five new shooters.

Closing Argument, the Derby runner-up at 72-1, Wilko (sixth) and Greeley's Galaxy (11th) also are set for another try, while trainer Nick Zito could send as many as three of his Derby starters -- High Fly (10th), Noble Causeway (14th) and Sun King (15th).

Frankel said High Limit is a go for the Preakness. The colt finished last in the 20-horse field, but his rear legs were cut when another horse clipped him during the race.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he'll have a Preakness starter, either Going Wild (18th in the Derby) or new shooter A.P. Arrow. And trainer Todd Pletcher may have a starter in either Flower Alley (ninth) or Coin Silver (12th).

Closing Argument will try to make up the half-length by which he was beaten in the Derby. But his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, thinks Afleet Alex may be the horse to catch.

As usual, new shooters are lining up for a chance to spring an upset of their own. Among them are Malibu Moonshine, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 23.

The others include Withers Stakes winner Scrappy T, Unbridled Stakes winner Hal's Image and Golden Man, an allowance-race winner being supplemented for $100,000.

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