Updated on 09/18/2011 1:35AM

Giacomo is what he is - no more, no less


PHILADELPHIA - Giacomo has to be the most misunderstood horse in recent history. In an era of inconsistent performances, he is incredibly consistent. In a sport that often over-hypes horses before they have earned it, there is nothing fraudulent about Giacomo.

Giacomo's reality is simple. On the Beyer scale, he is just not terribly fast. But he is a known quantity. You know what he can do, and you know what he can't do.

What is known is that if Giacomo competes in a race in which there is a solid pace and a 100 Beyer can win it, Giacomo can win. It happened precisely that way in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and in last Saturday's San Diego Handicap. Giacomo got a 100 Beyer in both races, and he won both races.

What Giacomo can't do is run better than that, which does not make him a bad horse or a horse who should be ridiculed. It just makes him a horse with a ceiling.

Unlike so many others, Giacomo also has a floor, and it's not all that far from his ceiling. Too many horses have a floor that becomes a trap door to Beyers so bad that those horses become impossible to handicap. Giacomo is really quite easy to figure, because his figures are so consistent. His last 10 starts have all been in stakes races, six of them Grade 1 stakes, and his Beyers have been 94, 98, 93, 95, 100, 97, 85, 103, 96, and 100. Throw out the 85, which he earned in the 2005 Belmont Stakes, when he sustained an injury, and you have one of the most consistent horses in America. Really, how many horses hold their form like that, especially when almost all of his races have come against the toughest competition?

Giacomo's problem is that he simply can't beat the very best, unless, of course, he gets the optimum conditions he got in the Derby. In fact, Giacomo's best Beyer, a 103, could get him no better than third in the Strub Stakes, five lengths behind High Limit. Some might have felt his run in the Santa Anita Handicap, in which he finished fifth, beaten 11 1/2 lengths by Lava Man, was a disappointment. The 96 Beyer he earned said otherwise. That was just Giacomo being Giacomo.

Going forward, Giacomo is being pointed for the Pacific Classic, Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, and Breeders' Cup Classic. Given the high-caliber horses that typically appear in those races, Giacomo can't win any of them. He will lag near the back and pass some of the tired horses, he just won't pass enough of them to win.

Giacomo simply has a style and a passing gear that is more 16-wheeler going uphill than sports car on a straightway.

Giacomo is going to be retired at the end of the year and go to stud in Kentucky. It is likely that he will go off to his next life with one win for each of his three years of competition. Some would look at this as a failure, but it isn't, given the proper context. Jerry and Ann Moss bred their mare Set Them Free to Holy Bull, hoping to get a good horse. They got exactly what they'd hoped for.

In fact, they got more than they ever could have imagined. Giacomo has won more than $2.2 million. He won the Derby, giving the Mosses a wonderful present to remember forever. He got Mike Smith that elusive Derby win. He proved just how good trainer John Shirreffs is at his craft.

With Giacomo, you get exactly what you expect to get. And, on that one first Saturday in May, when all the stars were aligned and the pace sucked the life out of the Derby, you got what on one hand looked like an equine miracle and on the other now looks suspiciously just like Giacomo doing what Giacomo does.