02/03/2005 12:00AM

Giacomo prepared for step up

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Giacomo was a length away from playing the spoilers' role in the Hollywood Futurity last month.

He rallied from sixth to finish second behind Declan's Moon, who clinched the Eclipse Award as the nation's top 2-year-old of 2004 with the Hollywood Futurity victory.

While Declan's Moon will not start again until early March, Giacomo is back for Saturday's $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss, Giacomo is seeking his first stakes win in the Sham Stakes, run over 1 1/8 miles.

"We're pretty excited about him," Shirreffs said. "This race seems like the next step. He's been a real competitor in that he gets dirt in his face and it doesn't bother him."

drew post 10 in a field of 11. Mike Smith has the mount on Giacomo, a Holy Bull colt who has 1 victory in 4 starts and earnings of $119,440.

The full field features two sprint stakes winners: Uncle Denny (California Breeders Champion Stakes on Dec. 26) and Going Wild (San Miguel Stakes on Jan. 17). Aside from Giacomo, three others have been staked placed: General John B, Iced Out, and Southern Africa.

The race offers a test for Going Wild, who has not won beyond six furlongs, and Uncle Denny, who will make his first start beyond seven furlongs.

Unbeaten in three starts, Uncle Denny led throughout the California Breeders' Champion Stakes under Rene Douglas.

"Hopefully, he's a distance horse," trainer Rafael Becerra said. "I hope he relaxes. To go a mile and an eighth, I hope Rene can get a good hold of him."

Southern Africa and Iced Out need a quick pace.

Southern Africa, imported from England last fall, was fourth in the Hollywood Futurity, finishing three lengths behind Declan's Moon.

Iced Out is making his third start of the meeting, having finished second to Uncle Denny in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes and second to Spanish Chestnut in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 15.

Even a maiden, Chekhov, is getting attention. Trained by Patrick Biancone and winless in two starts, Chekhov was purchased for $3.3 million at the Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale in 2004.