06/15/2005 11:00PM

Surgery to sideline Giacomo


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo has a bone chip in his left ankle that will keep him away from racing until the end of the year at the earliest, trainer John Shirreffs said Thursday.

The injury was discovered when X-rays were taken on Wednesday, Shirreffs said. Noted veterinarian Rick Arthur will conduct surgery at Hollywood Park next week.

"The prognosis is excellent," Shirreffs said.

Shirreffs said the injury to Giacomo's foreleg is not severe, and he is encouraged that Giacomo can make a full recovery. "I would go with a cup-is-half-full scenario," he said.

Shirreffs said Wednesday's procedure was the first time that Giacomo had been X-rayed in his life.

The X-rays were conducted after jockey Mike Smith said that Giacomo had displaced his palate and could not breathe properly during the Belmont Stakes last Saturday. Giacomo finished seventh, 17 3/4 lengths behind Afleet Alex.

Early in the race, Giacomo was just behind the leaders. He took the lead briefly on the final turn, but faded rapidly in early stretch. Shirreffs said that Giacomo did not suffer the same breathing problems during a postrace examination by a veterinarian.

Still, Shirreffs ordered the X-rays when Giacomo returned to California, wanting to give the colt a full checkup before resuming any training.

"He's not had a displacing problem before in any race, and he's been through a lot," he said.

Shirreffs said that Dr. Dawn Hunkin, Giacomo's regular veterinarian in California, had told him that "it looks like a fresh chip because there was so little damage to the joint itself."

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Giacomo has won 2 of 10 starts and $1,966,316. He scored a shocking victory in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, rallying from 18th in a field of 20 to win by a half-length at 50-1. The race was his first stakes victory in five attempts.

Giacomo finished third in the Preakness Stakes on May 21, losing by 9 3/4 lengths to Afleet Alex.

Shirreffs is hopeful that Giacomo can return to exercise in September, with a possible return to racing at the end of the year or the start of 2006.

"Most of the time for these type of injuries, it's between three or four months" off, Shirreffs said. "He should be at the short end of the time. With time, he should go on to be a better horse."