05/23/2005 11:00PM

Giacomo on the muscle

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Benoit & Associates
King of Happiness (right), with Patrick Valenzuela up, noses out Red Fort and Corey Nakatani in the Inglewood Handicap on April 30 at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Two races into the Triple Crown, a horse might show signs of fatigue. But not this year's playful Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo. He was full of himself Tuesday morning at Hollywood Park, camped at the front of his stall while his nose bumped and tossed the hayrack like it was a tetherball.

The display of energy is one reason trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss are looking forward to shipping Giacomo to New York for a Belmont Stakes rubber match with Afleet Alex.

Giacomo lost the Preakness by nearly 10 lengths Saturday, shipped cross-country Sunday, and by midweek was ready to return to work for trainer John Shirreffs.

"It's unbelievable - his coat is bright and shiny and he's stayed pretty much the same all the way through," Shirreffs said. "He'll probably go back to the track [Wednesday]."

Although Shirreffs declined to engage in friendly debate about the Preakness, which most observers believe was won by the best horse, he gladly expanded on Giacomo's trip.

"He and Afleet Alex were going for the same hole, and Afleet Alex got through," Shirreffs said. "He was quicker and had a little more acceleration."

Meanwhile, the logic goes, Giacomo was forced into neutral.

"While [Afleet Alex] was running, [Giacomo] was still waiting for a chance to run," Shirreffs said. "When you look them in the eye, sometimes things change. I'm just happy everything turned out well."

Shirreffs said Giacomo will train at Hollywood the next two weeks, and ship to Belmont three days before the race. The trainer expects Giacomo to like the sweeping turns at Belmont.

"He's a big, long-striding colt," Shirreffs said. "It should suit him pretty well . . . they can run through the turns. I wouldn't discount my horse's chances."

Corazondelcampeon's day to come

Corazondelcampeon has yet to race, but he is no longer secret. A 2-year-old, he was scheduled for his debut Sunday in the $75,000 Willard Proctor Stakes and was being hammered down from his morning line of 8-1. With less than 10 minutes to post, Corazondelcampeon, trained by David La Croix, was the 2-1 second choice in an apparently weak race.

"It was either the clockers touting him, or they could read the Racing Form and see there was nothing in there," La Croix said.

Unfortunately, the colt did not get the chance to run. A rogue who once tore the metal door off his stall and bent it nearly in half, Corazondelcampeon threw jockey Corey Nakatani in the post parade, ran off, and was scratched.

"I'm sick," La Croix said. "He would have been no worse than second, and I think he could have beaten" the winner, Wild Uncle Kurt, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of only 69.

The good news for La Croix and owner-breeder Scott Merrell is the only injury to Corazondelcampeon was a small grabbed quarter. A son of Comic Strip, Corazondelcampeon will return soon in a maiden race. Considering he was 2-1 in a stakes, his odds are expected to be very short against maidens.

Along with Corazondelcampeon, La Croix has another top 2-year-old prospect, a filly named Bully Bones, who defeated next-start stakes winner Lil' Sister Swiss, bucked shins, and will return for Del Mar.

"Maybe I have a good colt and a good filly," La Croix said, adding that another 2-year-old that he trains, by Impeachment, has shown ability.

New style suits King of Happiness

King of Happiness took on Grade 1 rivals twice last year, and finished fourth each time. So is he outclassed Monday in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile? Trainer Neil Drysdale believes otherwise.

"I think he's a better horse this year," Drysdale said.

Part of the reason for the optimism is strategy. "His best races have always been when he's sitting just off the pace," Drysdale.

Last year, jockey Kent Desormeaux repeatedly took the horse well off the pace, and the result was a series of modest finishes. In his first start this year, in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap, new jockey Pat Valenzuela put him into a pressing position in second.

"That's how he needs to be ridden," Drysdale said.

King of Happiness won by a nose over Red Fort, and Drysdale expects King of Happiness to move forward off the effort.

Corey Nakatani fills in for the injured Valenzuela on Sunday in the Shoemaker. In approximate order of odds, lowest first, the $350,000 turf race is expected to match Singletary, Special Ring, Buckland Manor, Castledale, King of Happiness, Fast and Furious, and Whilly.

Will Megahertz end barn's drought?

Megahertz worked five furlongs Tuesday at Hollywood in 1:02.20. and will be heavily favored Monday in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap. Humberto Ascanio, assistant trainer to Bobby Frankel, said Megahertz worked with a stablemate "just to give her some company." Megahertz is assigned 124 pounds, conceding eight pounds or more to each rival.

Megahertz can end an uncharacteristic drought for the Frankel stable. Going into this week, Frankel's most recent win in Southern California was on April 17 - Megahertz in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita. Since then, his barn has gone 0 for 17.