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May 13, 2005

Giacomo wins 131st Kentucky Derby


Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Longshot Giacomo won the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby.

Giacomo, who went off at odds of 50-1, broke away from a pack down the stretch and beat Closing Argument by just one-half length. Afleet Alex was just a length off the pace in third.

The time for the 1 1/4 mile classic was 2:02 3/5.

Giacomo earned his second win in eight lifetime starts, but posted his first victory since October of 2004. The son of beaten 1994 Kentucky Derby favorite Holy Bull was coming off a fourth-place finish at the Santa Anita Derby in his last outing.

Jockey Mike Smith, who rode Holy Bull to a 12th place finish 11 years ago, recorded his first Kentucky Derby victory in 12 tries, while trainer John Shirreffs also notched his first Derby win.

"I said this is the horse that's going to redeem his father's name," Smith stated about Giacomo. "It was a very low point that day [1994 Derby]. There's nothing like this."

Smith had finished second three times in his previous Kentucky Derby starts, including last year with Lion Heart.

Those who backed Giacomo at the windows were handsomely rewarded, as the colt paid $102.60, $45.80 and $19.80. Closing Argument returned $70.00 and $24.80, while Afleet Alex paid $4.60 to show.

The 50-1 odds made Giacomo the second-longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby, as only Donerail in 1913 was longer at 91-1.

Giacomo, owned by co-founder of A&M records Jerry Moss, is named after the son of pop star Sting.

"It's just faith and belief," said Moss, who picked up a first prize of $1,639,600. "We were lucky. We had a great team. It's a great feeling."

Nick Zito was the heavily-favored trainer with five starters in the 20-horse field, but the two-time Derby winner came up short. He had the favorite in Bellamy Road, who finished a disappointing seventh -- 6 3/4 lengths behind the winner -- for owner George Steinbrenner.

Bellamy Road, who won the Wood Memorial last month in dominating fashion by 17 1/2 lengths, was near the front early and in the lead pack along the far turn, but failed to fire at the finish.

Also for Zito, Andromeda's Hero was eighth; Florida Derby winner High Fly was 10th; Noble Causeway was 14th; and Sun King was 15th.

"Obviously, it wasn't our day," said Zito, who won the Derby previously with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go For Gin in 1994. "Great expectations bring great disappointment."

A blistering pace was set by Spanish Chestnut, who led the field through the first two quarters. The third-fastest Kentucky Derby first quarter was run in 22 1/5 seconds, while the second-fastest half-mile was 45 1/5.

Giacomo, meanwhile, was 17th along the backstretch, but made his move from there and caught the leaders at the top of the stretch to send the second- largest Derby crowd of 156,435 at Churchill Downs into a frenzy.

"I was able to save a lot of ground on the backstretch," Smith said. "I was able to hang around and then just got into him and he kept running."

Closing Argument and Afleet Alex drew away from the leaders in mid-stretch, with Afleet Alex running along the rail, but Giacomo came from out of nowhere to run down the leaders and pass both only a few yards before the wire.

"I knew that Giacomo was a pretty steady performer and didn't think he had peaked yet," said Shirreffs, who became the third straight trainer to win the Kentucky Derby in his first try. "We knew that he was improving each race."

Don't Get Mad finished fourth and with three double-digit longshots among the top four, the superfecta was worth more than $1 million.

Buzzards Bay was fifth, followed by Wilko, Bellamy Road, Andromeda's Hero, Flower Alley, High Fly, Greeley's Galaxy, Coin Silver, Greater Good, Noble Causeway, Sun King, Spanish Chestnut, Sort It Out, Going Wild, Bandini and High Limit.

Bandini was among the favorites heading into the race after winning the Blue Grass Stakes, but had trouble in the backstretch and was never in contention.

Next up for Giacomo, if he comes out of the race healthy, will be the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in two weeks. The Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, is set for June 11.

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