Can Giacomo do it again in the Preakness?

Updated: May 15, 2005, 9:55 PM ET
By Richard Rosenblatt | Associated Press

Giacomo pulled off the second-biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history and now heads to Baltimore for 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 (Derby), and we think maybe the best is yet to come."

Giacomo, who won only one race before the Derby, won't have it easy in the Preakness. Although Afleet Alex, who was third in the Derby, is the likely favorite, Giacomo won't be ignored in the betting -- or by rival trainers -- this time.

With so many potential superstars in the Derby -- George Steinbrenner's Wood Memorial winner Bellamy Road, Arkansas Derby winner Afleet Alex and Blue Grass winner Bandini among them -- Giacomo and jockey Mike Smith weaved their way past 19 rivals who never gave them a second thought.

That won't happen this time.

"He had it easy in the Derby because nobody thought he had a chance," Baffert said. "But he's tough."

He'd better be, because 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.

Afleet Alex trainer Tim Ritchey can't wait for another chance.

"The Preakness sets up very well for us," Ritchey said, "so hopefully we can turn the tables."

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).

His other two starters won't be around. Bellamy Road, who finished seventh as the 5-2 Derby favorite, is sidelined with a minor foot injury. Andromeda's Hero (eighth) is being pointed to the Belmont on June 11.

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.

"I have a lot of respect for Afleet Alex, and he'll be tough to beat," McLaughlin said. "But we ran a tough race in the Derby, and so did the winner."

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 Derby winner was a complete surprise, and it opens up the Preakness," Malibu Moonshine trainer King Leatherbury said. "It kind of says to everybody, "You've got a shot."'

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. Also set to go is Galloping Grocer, fourth in the Wood Memorial on April 9 and third in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes on April 24.

If more than 14 are entered, the top seven are determined by graded stakes earnings, the next four by earnings minus restricted races and the final three spots by overall earnings.

Watch the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 21 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press