BALTIMORE - Even though he's won the Kentucky Derby, a question still lingers for Giacomo: Was his Derby win at 50-1 odds a fluke or a first step on the way to the Triple Crown?
The answer comes in today's Preakness Stakes, when Giacomo takes on 13 rivals in what shapes up as a wide-open race.
A win, and it's on to the Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown on the line for the fourth consecutive year and seventh time in nine years. A loss, and Giacomo could wind up as a one-hit wonder, like 1992 Derby winner Lil E. Tee.
"He got the job done and ran better than anyone else that day," said jockey Jerry Bailey of Giacomo's Derby. "So he's the champ - at this point."
Bailey will be aboard High Fly, one of the 3-year-olds trying to derail Giacomo in the 13/16th-mile Preakness. High Fly was 10th in the Derby, but is one of three horses with shorter odds than Giacomo.
Afleet Alex, third in the Derby, is the 5-2 favorite, with High Fly at 9-2 and Derby runner-up Closing Argument at 5-1. Giacomo is at 6-1. The last Derby winner so lightly regarded was Charismatic, who won the 1999 Preakness at 8-1.
Giacomo hasn't scared off anyone, either. Nine Derby also-rans are back, including last-place finisher High Limit - 44 lengths behind the winner. The only other time 10 Derby horses ran back in the Preakness was '99.
It might appear Giacomo hasn't gotten much respect, but trainer John Shirreffs doesn't see it that way.
"I think a lot of people like Giacomo, I think he's getting respect," Shirreffs said on a rainy Friday at Pimlico. "The people who have actually seen the horse and watched the race and saw what he had to overcome - weaving through traffic, getting to the outside and finishing well - really appreciate Giacomo's effort."
Giacomo, with Mike Smith aboard, won't have an easy go of it this time, either. A full field of 20 horses contested the Derby, and a full field of 14 - the first since 1992 - will line up for the Preakness.
Giacomo, owned by A&M Records co-founder Jerry Moss, also drew the unfavorable No. 13 post position, a spot that has not produced a Preakness winner in the 13 times there have been 13 or more in the field.
In the Derby, Spanish Chestnut set a torrid pace and many of the top horses followed, only to fade in the stretch and set up the race for closers such as Giacomo and Closing Argument.
Spanish Chestnut isn't around, but look for High Limit to make the lead under Edgar Prado, who takes over for Ramon Dominguez. The Louisiana Derby winner will be equipped with blinkers for the first time to keep him focused on his task.
Tim Ritchey, who trains Afleet Alex, believe the race sets up well for his horse.
"I don't think you'll have a suicide pace like you did in the Derby," he said. "I think the riders will be well aware of the pace they set in the Derby."
Nick Zito sends out a record-tying three horses in the Preakness. Zito trains High Fly, Noble Causeway (14th in the Derby) and Sun King (15th).
When: 6:15 p.m.
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
TV: NBC-Ch. 26
Field: 14 3-year-olds
Distance: 13/16 miles
Favorite: Afleet Alex, 5-2
Total purse: $1,000,000
Winner's share: $650,000
2004 winner: Smarty Jones
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