07/24/2006 12:00AM

Giacomo's next test in Pacific Classic


On Sunday morning, Jerry Moss was beaming as he stood in front of Giacomo's stall on the Del Mar backstretch.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Giacomo had repaired his tattered reputation with a hard-fought win in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Diego Handicap. The San Diego was Giacomo's first win since the 2005 Kentucky Derby, ending a four-race losing streak.

Standing in trainer John Shirreffs's barn, Moss was not about to take on those who have argued that the Kentucky Derby win was a fluke, but he did say that Saturday's victory was special.

"Winning any kind of race is exciting, but this guy, we bred him," Moss said. "He's changed our lives. He's a little different. Now, he's won at 2, 3, and 4."

Giacomo, sent off at 9-2, certainly looked different winning the San Diego than he did in his two losses earlier this year, a third in the Strub Stakes and a fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap. In both of those races, he lacked the stretch-long punch that carried him to the Kentucky Derby win.

In the San Diego, Giacomo was sixth with three furlongs remaining, circled most of the field, and needed the entire stretch to catch Preachinatthebar, winning by a head.

"It was sort of like the Derby again - here he comes," Shirreffs said. "It's not a fast move. He just keeps coming."

The field for the San Diego Handicap was not a tough one. The race had only one 2006 stakes winner - Preachinatthebar, who had won Grade 3 stakes at Santa Anita and Lone Star Park in the spring. Giacomo's next test will be tougher. He is scheduled to return in the $1 million Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles here on Aug. 20. He is expected to meet Lava Man, the leader of the handicap division in California. Lava Man beat Giacomo in the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

"A mile and a quarter race seems to be a distance he has no problem with," Moss said of Giacomo, reflecting on the Derby distance. "It will be an experience trying to catch Lava Man."

Giacomo will have only three more starts before he is sent to stud in Kentucky next year. After the Pacific Classic, he will be pointed for the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 7 and the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

Said Shirreffs after the San Diego, "This is one step in a long season."