LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The game at the Preakness is beat the Kentucky Derby winner. That may never be truer than this year, because Giacomo has no one quaking in his boots.
After shocking the racing world with the second-largest upset in Kentucky Derby history, Giacomo will attempt to win the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 21 at Pimlico. Six of the past eight Derby winners won the Preakness, but few on the backstretch at Churchill Downs yesterday believed Giacomo would become the seventh of nine.
"This might be one of those years we have three different winners of the Triple Crown races," said D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Going Wild, who finished 18th in Saturday's Derby.
Like most others who watched the race, Lukas was still scratching his head over the results: Giacomo first at 50-1; Closing Argument second at 71-1; Afleet Alex third at 9-2; Don't Get Mad fourth at 29-1, and Buzzards Bay fifth at 46-1.
"There's no way to explain that," Lukas said. "Zito had five, and Pletcher had three. That's eight head. What are the odds that none of them would finish in the top five? That's the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen."
Nick Zito saddled five Derby entrants, including Bellamy Road, the favorite. Todd Pletcher saddled three, including Bandini, the third choice.
The field for the Preakness is just beginning to take shape. It likely will change many times in the coming days. But it looks as if the top three Derby finishers will continue on to Baltimore, while several Derby also-rans may stay in the hunt and a handful of newcomers may join it.
John Shirreffs, trainer of Giacomo, flew home to California after the race and could not be reached by phone yesterday. He is notoriously publicity shy, often declining even to pose in the winner's circle with his horses.
Mike Smith, Giacomo's jockey, said yesterday he saw no reason why Shirreffs wouldn't run the horse in the Preakness. Smith said Giacomo was in high spirits the morning after his half-length win.
"I thanked him for yesterday," Smith said outside the barn. "I gave him a hug and kiss, and then he tried to bite me."
Zito said he would remove only one of his quintet from Preakness consideration. That would be Andromeda's Hero, eighth in the Derby. Zito said he'd wait to run the colt in the Belmont.
As for Bellamy Road (seventh), High Fly (10th), Noble Causeway (14th) and Sun King (15th), Zito said he would discuss the colts' immediate futures with their owners before deciding whether to send them to Pimlico.
"We will definitely go on to Baltimore with somebody," Zito said. "I don't want to ship them anywhere right now. It's been a grueling situation for everybody."
Zito said he hadn't talked since the race with George Steinbrenner, who owns Bellamy Road. But Zito said he expected The Boss to take the colt's disappointing effort in stride.
"George knows sports," Zito said of the New York Yankees owner. "I'm sure he's lost a lot of big games. I've lost a lot of big games, too. Yesterday I lost the biggest game I've ever been in, and I got beat up pretty bad."
Pletcher said it was likely he wouldn't have any horses for the Preakness. He said only Flower Alley, ninth in the Derby, was a "remote possibility."
Bandini, who finished 19th, came out of the race "stiff" and was to be vanned to Lexington for a physical examination, Pletcher said.
Although he might not send a horse to Baltimore for the Preakness, Pletcher said he could envision a scenario in which many others would, believing the Derby winner was vulnerable. The Preakness field is limited to 14.
At this point, however, only three newcomers have announced their intention to compete in the middle jewel: Hal's Image, winner of the Unbridled Stakes at Calder; Malibu Moonshine, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico; and Scrappy T, winner of the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.
Malibu Moonshine is the lone candidate based in Maryland. He is trained by King T. Leatherbury, who last ran a horse in the Preakness in 1985.
Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Derby runner-up Closing Argument, said he usually doesn't run horses again in two weeks, "but this isn't a normal situation."
Tim Ritchey, trainer of Afleet Alex, third in the Derby, said the popular colt would be shipped Wednesday to Pimlico. That would be an unusually early arrival for a Preakness horse. Ritchey said he likes his horses to train where they're going to run.
"We're going to play the spoiler now because we didn't win the Derby," Ritchey said. "We'll be trying to win the Preakness, and I think we've got a heck of a chance."
Bobby Frankel, trainer of High Limit, last in the Derby, said early yesterday that the colt wouldn't compete for at least a month because of gashes on both hind legs. Frankel said he believes High Limit suffered the wounds tussling with Sun King in the race.