02/04/2006 1:00AM

High Limit wins Strub; Giacomo third

High Limit turns in the finest performance of his career, winning the Grade 2 Strub Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths over 18-1 Top This and That.

ARCADIA, Calif. - High Limit, who finished last of 20 in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, took his revenge on Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo in Saturday's $300,000 at Santa Anita.

High Limit turned in the finest performance of his career, winning the Grade 2 Strub Stakes by 4 1-2 lengths over 18-1 Top This and That. Giacomo, making his first start since finishing seventh in the Belmont Stakes last June, finished third, five lengths behind High Limit in the field of 11 4-year-olds. Canteen, the 5-2 favorite, finished 10th.

High Limit ($8.80) ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:49.14, recording his third stakes win. The victory was High Limit's first over 1 1-8 miles, a point that pleased trainer Bobby Frankel.

"Today, he showed he could do it," Frankel said. "I was a little worried about it."

High Limit, the second choice, was always near the front. Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, High Limit stalked longshot pacesetters Actxecutive and Ice Cole through early fractions of 23.01 and 47.29 seconds.

High Limit took the lead with a wide rally on the final turn and was not threatened through the stretch.

"I loved the way he finished," Valenzuela said.

Giacomo closed well from the back of the field. Jockey Mike Smith began to urge the gray colt with a half-mile remaining and quickly got a response.

Racing on the inside, Giacomo moved into fourth in early stretch. While he passed a fading Ice Cole in the final furlong, he could not catch Top This and That, missing second by a half-length.

"He's gonna get a lot out of this race," Smith said.

Top This and That's runner-up finish was the best result of his 15-race career. He was third in the Snow Chief Stakes for California-breds at Hollywood Park last April.

High Limit races for Gary and Mary West and gave Frankel his third win in the Strub in the last five years.

A winner of 5 of 11 starts and $862,500, High Limit won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap against older horses on Jan. 7, his first start since September. Last year, High Limit won the Louisiana Derby and was second in the Blue Grass Stakes prior to his disappointing race in the Kentucky Derby.