The Bobby Frankel-trained High Limit spoiled the return to the races of 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo with an authoritative win in the $300,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita Park Saturday.
High Limit had a comfortable trip under Patrick Valenzuela, sitting just off the pace and taking command in upper stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths under slight urging. The winning son of Maria's Mon
lost to Giacomo by 44 1/2 lengths while finishing last in the Derby in May.
Giacomo, who won the Derby at odds of 50-1, turned in a strong effort to finish third in his first start since June, coming home one-half length behind the runner-up, the California-bred Top This and That. The John Shirreffs-trained colt, ridden as always by Mike Smith, moved impressively on the far turn along the inside, nearing contention in the stretch. He seemed to lose some momentum when presented with a small opening between horses and came on again after getting clear on the outside. He would not have caught the winner, however, no matter which path he took.
"He ran dynamite today," Smith said afterward of Giacomo, who went to the sidelines after having bone chips removed from both front legs. "He was a little fresh, and he was rank at different times, so I had to take a little more hold than usual. But I'm extremely happy with the way he finished. He's going to get a lot out of this race."
High Limit has now won two grade II stakes in a row. He was game as could be in nosing the older Buckland Manor in the San Pasqual Handicap Jan. 7 at Santa Anita. The bay colt has now won five of 11 starts with earnings of $862,500 for Gary and Mary West of Omaha, Nebraska.
He looked like a winner from the outset, rating on the outside of the determined early pacesetter Actxecutive and the longshot Ice Cole through moderate fractions of :23 and :47 1/5. Coming off the mid-point of the far turn, High Limit moved up on the outside and took command heading for home as the pacesetters fell back.
"The only question I had was about the distance," said Frankel of High Limit, "but now we know. He's a bigger, stronger horse. It looked like he could get a mile-and-a-quarter the way he ran today."
Said Valenzuela, "I loved the way he finished."
Greely's Galaxy loomed a threat for a while as the 5-2 favorite Canteen backed out of contention, but it was Top This and That, ridden by Alex Solis, and Giacomo who came through to grab the other placings. Greeley's Galaxy, with Kent Desormeaux in the saddle, finished fourth in the field of 11.
The second choice, High Limit carried two pounds less than Giacomo at 121 and paid $8.80, $5.40, and $4.40. Top This and That, looking for his first stakes win under 117 pounds, closed well and returned $12.80 and $6.80 as part of a $126.40 exacta. Giacomo, who ran seventh in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) when last seen, was $4.20 to show. He was running 10th of 11 in the first half of the race.
After Greeley's Galaxy came Hockey the General, Ice Cole, Dixie Meister, Alexandersrun, Actxecutive, Canteen and Distorted. Ulistntome and Wilko, who runs in Sunday's San Antonio Handicap (gr. II), were scratched.
Giacomo was the tenth Derby winner in compete in the Strub. He joined three others who have failed to add a victory in the Strub. Silver Charm, in 1998, was the last to win both.
John Shirreffs, who trains Giacomo, said he was "really happy" with the Strub effort.
"The (March 4) Santa Anita Handicap should be next," he said.
Frankel said the Big 'Cap would be considered for High Limit.