06/14/2005 11:00PM

Giacomo to have series of tests

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Giacomo, here with groom Frank Leal, ran seventh in the Belmont.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo will undergo a precautionary battery of tests in coming days so that his seventh-place finish in the Belmont Stakes last weekend can be better understood, trainer John Shirreffs said.

After the Belmont Stakes, jockey Mike Smith said that Giacomo displaced his palate during the race. Giacomo stalked the pace and took the lead on the final turn, but faded through the stretch.

Shirreffs said that Giacomo did not suffer the same breathing problems during a postrace examination by a veterinarian.

"We'll see if there is something there we don't know about," Shirreffs said. "If something is atypical, we want to find the reason."

Giacomo returned to Shirreffs's barn at Hollywood Park on Sunday and walked from Monday through Wednesday.

"He jogged okay for the vet when she looked at him," Shirreffs said.

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Giacomo has won 2 of 10 starts and $1,966,316. The Kentucky Derby is his lone stakes win.

He followed that performance with a third in the Preakness Stakes behind Afleet Alex.

Bell to retire after Del Mar

B. William Bell, the state veterinarian at Southern California tracks for the last 15 years, said on Wednesday that he submitted his resignation to the California Horse Racing Board last month and plans to retire at the end of the Del Mar meeting in September.

"It's time," he said. "It's just time."

Bell has been involved in Southern California racing since the late 1960's. He had a private veterinary practice for 22 years until he became the state veterinarian at Los Alamitos in 1989. Less than a year later, he took a similar position on the Thoroughbred circuit.

The state veterinarian position is a multifaceted job, including such tasks as prerace examinations and overseeing the collection and security of postrace blood and urine samples in the backstretch test barn.

Bell said there is a chance that he could fill in from time to time, if needed, but he will largely step away from the sport.

"I will probably be a human being," he said. "I'll do some traveling and pick up an old hobby. I like to build model trains. I won't have anything to do with horses."

Bell, 69, said his contract is set to expire on June 30. In a letter to the racing board's executive director, Ingrid Fermin, he requested to work through the end of Del Mar.

Cerin readies closing push

As recently as May 21, Vladimir Cerin was tied with Doug O'Neill for the lead in the trainer standings. "Then I went 0 for 16," Cerin said. "But I came back and won three in a row. The down times are so tough."

Through last Sunday, Cerin was second in the standings with 14 wins, good enough for second behind O'Neill, who had 19 wins.

Catching O'Neill's massive stable could be tough, but Cerin says he has several promising horses left to run in the final five weeks of the meeting.

Saturday, one such colt, Khyber Pass, starts in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. A prep to the $400,000 Swaps Stakes on July 9, the Affirmed will be the stakes debut for Khyber Pass, who has won 2 of 4 starts for co-owners Frank Stronach and David and Holly Wilson.

"I think he's a very useful horse," Cerin said. "I think he's still developing, and I think he'll be a good grass horse even though he's lost twice on grass."

Khyber Pass has not started since winning an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles by a nose here on April 27. In that race, he led throughout, setting a quick pace, but Cerin does not expect Khyber Pass to be on the lead on Saturday in a race that includes the speedy Surf Cat.

"He doesn't have to be on the lead," Cerin said.

Khyber Pass did not start at 2. He made his debut at Santa Anita in January, finishing fourth in a maiden race on the hillside turf course. He has not been worse than second in three subsequent starts, including a maiden win at 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt on Feb. 6.

"Who knows if he's that good?" Cerin said. "But his last few races have been pretty good."

The Wilsons bought a half-interest in Khyber Pass after the colt failed to sell at a 2-year-olds in-training sale last year. Stronach, his breeder, retained a 50 percent share.

In the Grade 3 Affirmed, Khyber Pass will carry 114 pounds, eight fewer than topweight and expected favorite Buzzards Bay, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby. Cerin does not expect to gain much of an advantage from the weight scenario.

"Handicaps are irrelevant," Cerin said. "No one carries any weight, and the low weights can't make the weight. I don't worry about the weights."

The other probable starters in what will be a small field includes Dover Dere, and Indian Ocean.

Keep on Punching bound for Gold Cup

Keep on Punching, nominated for Saturday's Californian Stakes, will make his next start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9, trainer Anthony Saavedra said.

Keep on Punching, 4, has won three consecutive starts - a maiden race at Santa Anita in April and allowance races here on May 15 and June 4.

"It's a little quick to come back in two weeks," Saavedra said. "Patience always pays."

The Californian field is expected to include Ace Blue, Anziyan Royalty, Borrego, Lava Man, Molengao, and Skukuza.

Pico Central, Megahertz work out

Pico Central, one of the top sprinters of 2004, worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds on Wednesday, moving closer to a comeback later this summer.

Unraced since finishing fourth in the $2 million Golden Shaheen sprint in Dubai in March, Pico Central is likely to start at Del Mar, trainer Paulo Lobo said. Pico Central will "not be ready in time" to start at the current Hollywood Park meeting.

Tuesday, Megahertz, the top female turf runner in California, worked six furlongs in 1:13.60. Wednesday, she was nominated to the $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on June 25, according to Humberto Ascanio, Bobby Frankel's assistant trainer.