BALTIMORE - If Giacomo didn't win the Kentucky Derby, Barry Rose would have stayed home this week instead of bringing Hal's Image to Pimlico.
Giacomo came in as a 50-1 underdog, which led Rose to believe that his horse had as good a chance as anyone to win the Preakness - even though Hal's Image has two wins in 16 career starts.
"If any of the top horses, like Bellamy Road, Afleet Alex or Bandini, had really run big races I would have second thoughts on whether this would be the way to try and do it," Rose said. "But he's been training so well, we had to give him an opportunity."
Hal's Image is one of four newcomers to the Triple Crown series this week. He is joined by Malibu Moonshine, Scrappy T and Galloping Grocer.
Besides sitting out the Kentucky Derby, the four horses have something else in common: long odds in the Preakness. Hal's Image is 50-1 on the morning line, Galloping Grocer is at 30-1 and Malibu Moonshine and Scrappy T are at 20-1.
It's tough to dismiss them, however, given that Giacomo won the Derby at 50-1 and Closing Argument came in second as a 72-1 shot.
"I didn't think the winner was going to be the one that won it, but he ran a heck of a horse race," Scrappy T trainer Robbie Bailes said. "It could be one of those years where they keep beating each other. We'll see."
Hal's Image didn't have enough graded stakes earnings to enter the Derby, but Rose was encouraged by his horse's second-place finish at Aqueduct on April 16 and winning effort in the Unbridled Stakes two weeks later.
"He ran a good race in New York and came back strong in the Unbridled," Rose said. "I also wanted to see how the Derby ran, because if there was a lot of speed in the Derby that held up, it might have been a tougher decision. I might have decided otherwise for the Preakness."
Giacomo hadn't left the winner's circle before Rose began thinking about a trip to Baltimore.
"The horses coming off the pace were the ones that wound up winning," he said, "and the time wasn't exceptionally fast."
Bailes, on the other hand, was headed to the Preakness regardless of what happened at Churchill Downs.
"We pretty much made up our minds before the Derby that we were coming here," he said. "We believe we got him where we need him to be, and if we're to give him a shot against the big boys, this is the time to do it."
Bringing Malibu Moonshine to Pimlico was an easy decision for trainer King Leatherbury, who trains in nearby Laurel. Although his horse is quite familiar with Pimlico, the Maryland-bred son of Malibu Moon is not accustomed to going up against such talented competition.
"You've got a local rider, local trainer, local owner, and the horse has been running in Maryland. Naturally, we're getting some attention for that," said Leatherbury, who's competing in his first Preakness in 20 years. "But from the standpoint of being the best horse in the race, we're not."
He is, however, the freshest. Malibu Moonshine hasn't run since April 23, when he rallied to win the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.
New York-bred Galloping Grocer is expected to arrive in Baltimore on Friday. He has won three of his eight career races, but is 0-for-4 this year.
Preakness at a Glance
What: The 130th Preakness
When: 6:15 p.m. EDT, Saturday
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
Field: 14 3-year-olds
Distance: 1 3-16 miles
Favorite: Afleet Alex, 5-2
Total purse: $1,000,000
Winner's share: $650,000
2004 winner: Smarty Jones