`Alex,' Giacomo draw post positions 9 and 5

Preakness, Derby victors are top 2 picks Saturday

Belmont notebook

Horse Racing

June 09, 2005|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ELMONT, N.Y. - Afleet Alex, winner of the Preakness and third in the Kentucky Derby, drew post 9 yesterday for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park.

And Giacomo, winner of the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, drew post 5. Tim Ritchey, trainer of Afleet Alex, and John Shirreffs, trainer of Giacomo, said they were happy with their colts' starting spots.

Eric Donovan, Belmont oddsmaker, gave more credence to Afleet Alex's stellar record than to Giacomo's shocking upset. Donovan made Afleet Alex the 6-5 morning-line favorite and Giacomo the 4-1 second choice.

Donovan listed only one of the other nine entrants at single-digit odds. He made Reverberate, runner-up in the Peter Pan Stakes, 6-1. Trained by Sal Russo, a former assistant to Scotty Schulhofer, Reverberate has won twice - an allowance and maiden race - in eight tries.

The Grade II Peter Pan, won by Oratory, who is skipping the Belmont, took place a mere 12 days ago. A son of Thunder Gulch, who won the Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Travers a decade ago, Reverberate won an allowance race three weeks before the Peter Pan.

Russo said he had planned on racing Reverberate in late April at Aqueduct but was forced to wait because of a delay leaving Florida. Reverberate and other horses had to remain in Florida before shipping north because of an outbreak of the equine disease strangles.

Russo has eyed the Belmont for Reverberate since February, he said. "I was looking for him to be a fresh horse, but it's a lot to ask now with three races in 34 days," Russo said.

Russo, 44, has been part of two Belmont victories. He was with Shulhofer when Colonial Affair won in 1993, and he was the agent for Jose Santos when Santos won aboard Lemon Drop Kid in 1999. Santos will ride Reverberate.

Zito tries three more

Trainer Nick Zito's ninth, 10th and 11th entrants in this year's Triple Crown series will be long shots, says the morning line. Andromeda's Hero is 15-1, and Indy Storm and Pinpoint are 20-1.

"I'm going to take a chance again," said Zito, who won his first Belmont last year with Birdstone on his 13th try.

Zito said that his three entrants are all bred for the Belmont's 1 1/2 miles. Andromeda's Hero is a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, Indy Storm a son of A.P. Indy, and Pinpoint a son of Peaks and Valleys.

Andromeda's Hero has won two of seven races. One of the wins came in a minor stakes, the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. The colt hasn't raced since finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

"He was eighth, not 18th," Zito said. "That means he beat some quality horses. ... The Belmont was the race we always thought he'd be best for."

Pinpoint, who didn't launch his career until February, has won three of four races. On Preakness day at Pimlico, he captured the Sir Barton Stakes.

Indy Storm has won two of seven races. In his lone stakes try, he finished ninth in the Louisiana Derby. In his last race, an allowance on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico, he rallied four-wide for a two-length score.

"All of a sudden they've gotten good, and they're fresh horses," Zito said. "Alex and Giacomo look tremendous on paper, but the Triple Crown really wears on these horses."

Zito would be the second trainer to start three horses in the Belmont. "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons started three in 1936 and won with Granville. This year, Zito tied trainers' records for most starters in the Derby (five) and Preakness (three).

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