- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 130th Preakness Stakes likely will have a large field even though many of the horses from the Kentucky Derby won’t return to challenge long-shot winner Giacomo.

Only three Derby horses — runner-up Closing Argument, Afleet Alex (third) and Flower Alley (ninth) — are probable for the second leg of the Triple Crown on May21 at Pimlico Race Course. Don’t Get Mad (fourth), Wilko (sixth) and favorite Bellamy Road (seventh) also could enter but are less likely. Noble Causeway (14th) and High Limit (20th) will be sidelined after minor injuries in the Derby, while other trainers said yesterday they will consider races elsewhere.

At least four non-Derby runners are expected, including Federico Tesio Stakes winner Malibu Sunshine Moonshine and Withers Stakes victor Scrappy T.

Neither the newcomers nor the returners scare Giacomo jockey Mike Smith. He not only rejected the notion Giacomo’s victory was a fluke but said the margin would have been greater if he had made a cleaner trip. The colt pulled ahead with six strides remaining for a half-length victory over fellow long-shot Closing Argument.

“People can say what they want to say — I believe a lot in him,” Smith said. “It went almost exactly like I thought it would. If he had a smooth trip, he could have won by two or three [lengths].”

Still, it probably will take another win by Giacomo before he is anointed the nation’s best 3-year-old colt. After all, Giacomo lost six of seven races before the Derby, with the lone victory a maiden race Oct.22. However, it’s hard to dismiss the Derby victory as pure luck because four horses led somewhere in the stretch. Giacomo passed 16 rivals in the final half-mile, including second-choice Afleet Alex after the 16th pole.

Trainers Nick Zito and D. Wayne Lukas were looking for alternates in their barns for the Preakness, and trainer Bobby Frankel joked of entering First Word after the colt broke his maiden last week — all signs that many trainers were dismissing Giacomo’s 50-1 Derby shocker. The overall 2:023/5 time was the slowest Derby in six years despite an opening three-quarters mile that was the fifth fastest in history and cooked the front-runners.

“We’ll see at the next stop,” Frankel said. “Giacomo might be the one who wins the Triple Crown that we least suspect.”

Zito remains perplexed that his strong hand of four contenders and a long shot vanished by the stretch. He’s considering taking two horses to the Preakness and ruled out Andromeda’s Hero (eighth) would be one of them.

“I still can’t pinpoint anything,” Zito said. “They look better now. You just have to regroup.”

Smith reached Churchill Downs at dawn a little sleepy. However, he beamed when he acknowledged he had gotten a $10,000 bonus from Giacomo owner Jerry Moss, who bet $200 to win on the colt as a prerace incentive. It was a nice perk in addition to his $163,000 payday for winning the race.

“[Moss] said he saw it in a movie one time and it worked,” Smith said.

If nothing else, Giacomo’s victory likely will ensure full 20-horse Derby fields in coming years. The second-biggest winning payoff in Derby history should inspire other long shots to try the seemingly impossible.

“Everybody with a 3-year-old with a heartbeat next year will enter it,” Lukas said. “There might be a cry to run 24.”

Said Frankel: “You had people say these horses didn’t belong. … Well, everybody belongs.”

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