05/16/2005 11:00PM

Giacomo works like he's ready

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Kentucky Derby champ Giacomo, Frankie Herrarte aboard, works impressively Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The ink on the Kentucky Derby chart hadn't yet dried when some people started looking ahead to Baltimore and the Preakness. Indeed, some individuals in the Triple Crown traveling road show are quick to pack up and move East, but others would just as soon linger in Louisville as long as possible.

In fact, it has become fashionable - if not plain sensible - in recent years for major players in the Triple Crown to stay behind at Churchill Downs until the middle of Preakness Week. Popularized by successful trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert, that trend was in evidence in the 10-day period following Giacomo's upset win in the Derby on May 7, and the point was driven home Tuesday morning when the Derby winner had his lone workout toward the Preakness at Churchill over a fast surface.

Trainer John Shirreffs said he had debated whether or not to work Giacomo before the Preakness, which will be run Saturday for the 130th time at Pimlico in Baltimore. But he ultimately decided that the colt was "asking to do a little something," and Giacomo put in a very easy half-mile work in 51.80 seconds.

"He was feeling so good [Monday]," said Shirreffs. "I went to get the rider off him, and the horse gave a little cow kick. He gave me a lot of little indications that it would be okay to do something with him."

Shirreffs, astride a pony he has been borrowing from trainer Randy Morse, accompanied Giacomo and exercise rider Frankie Herrarte onto a backstretch gap, then parted company with them on the front side when returning, clockwise, to a spot on the backstretch where he could watch his stable star break off approaching the half-mile pole.

Herrarte got Giacomo to the pole smoothly, and the colt proceeded through the work in roughly 13-second furlongs; it was apparent that Giacomo could have gone considerably faster if asked. From the eighth pole to the wire, Herrarte gave a subtle nudge or two to the colt, and he got that split in about 12.60 seconds, but the clocking was far less relevant than the graceful manner in which it was accomplished. Equibase clocker John Nichols later termed Giacomo as being "under a very, very strong hold," and Shirreffs was not disagreeing.

"I thought the colt handled it very well," Shirreffs said. "It was very workmanlike. I just wanted him to extend his legs a little, to blow a little."

The workout ended what has been a quiet, productive, and highly satisfactory post-Derby span for Giacomo, whose victory at 50-1 in the 131st Derby rocked the racing world. The colt seems to thrive in the relative calm at Barn 45 on the backside at Churchill, from where not only Giacomo but also seven other Preakness prospects were to travel on Wednesday to Pimlico.

Two of those more well-regarded Preakness challengers, High Fly and Wilko, also had half-mile breezes Tuesday at Churchill.

High Fly, with Carlos Correa up for trainer Nick Zito, went in 50.20 seconds at about 6:40 a.m. Eastern, two hours before Giacomo and Wilko. Zito said he chose not to work High Fly the previous day, when the trainer's two other Preakness starters, Sun King and Noble Causeway, went five furlongs, because High Fly "is a different kind of horse."

Because High Fly is a speed horse, Zito explained, he "probably doesn't need" as much training as a horse with a more deliberate style.

High Fly suffered only his second defeat from seven starts in the Derby, when he briefly challenged for the lead in the stretch, then faded to finish 10th. Zito won the 1996 Preakness with a horse with a similar front-running style, Louis Quatorze, who had finished 16th in the Derby. High Fly figures to be one of the top three wagering choices in the Preakness with Jerry Bailey back aboard.

Wilko, with Joe Deegan up for trainer Craig Dollase, worked a few minutes before Giacomo, at 8:40 a.m. There was some confusion about whether the workout should have been timed at three or four furlongs; the clockers settled on 50.60 seconds for four furlongs, with the final three furlongs in 37 seconds and change. Wilko, like Giacomo after him, hit the wire full of energy and bounded out in a strong gallop.

Dollase said he is very pleased and excited about how Wilko has bounced back from his sixth-place finish in the Derby. Dollase said he doesn't "want to make a big deal about" the trace amount of blood found in Wilko's throat passage after the Derby.

"We scoped him and saw just a small amount, but that's normal for the majority of racehorses," he said. "When he came back after the race, he was covered - I mean covered - in dirt, so it's like he took half the racetrack down his trachea. Hopefully he'll have a better trip Saturday and won't have to go through that again."

Dollase said he believes Wilko "absolutely took a major step forward" in the Derby and could be sitting on a huge effort Saturday. Wilko is seeking his first victory since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall.

Entries for the Preakness were to be drawn Wednesday evening at the ESPN Zone in downtown Baltimore. Fourteen starters, the first full field since 1992, were expected. Ten of the 14 probables ran in the Derby, a statistic that would tie a record for most Derby-to-Preakness starters, set in 1999.

The Preakness will be televised during a 90-minute broadcast on NBC Sports. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. Eastern, with post time at 6:15.

The weather forecast for the Baltimore area for Saturday calls for a high temperature of 72 degrees and mostly cloudy skies, with a 20 percent chance of rain.

Preakness contenders

Horses pointing for the 130th Preakness at Pimlico on May 21. The field will be limited to 14, with starters determined by a sliding scale of earnings. If all 15 horses enter, Golden Man will be excluded under the Preakness entry rules.

HORSETRAINERJOCKEYLAST RACE
Afleet AlexT. RitcheyJ. Rose3rd, Ky. Derby
Closing ArgumentK. McLaughlinC. Velasquez2nd, Ky. Derby
Galloping GrocerD. SchettinoJ. Bravo3rd, Times Square
GiacomoJ. ShirreffsM. Smith1st, Ky. Derby
Going WildD.W. Lukasundecided18th, Ky. Derby
Golden ManR. DutrowJ. Velazquez1st, GP alw
Greeley's GalaxyW. StuteD. Flores11th, Ky. Derby
Hal's ImageB. RoseJ. Santos1st, Unbridled
High FlyN. ZitoJ. Bailey10th, Ky. Derby
High LimitR. FrankelE. Prado20th, Ky. Derby
Malibu MoonshineK. LeatherburyS. Hamilton1st, Tesio
Noble CausewayN. ZitoG. Stevens14th, Ky. Derby
Scrappy TR. BailesR. Dominguez1st, Withers
Sun KingN. ZitoR. Bejarano15th, Ky. Derby
WilkoC. DollaseC. Nakatani6th, Ky. Derby