Giacomo, named for rock star Sting's son, sang an upset tune in the $2,399,600 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Sent off at odds of 50-1, Mike Smith guided Giacomo to the surprising victory before the second largest crowd in Kentucky Derby history. The exacta was huge as another longshot, Closing Argument, ran second at odds of 71-1. The gimmick paid $9,814.80, shattering the record for exacta payoff of $1,300.80 set in 2002.
The superfecta was as staggering as the finish, paying $1,728,507 with Afleet Alex third and Don't Get Mad fourth. The trifecta paid $133,184.60. Both were also records by far, the highest previous trifecta $18,373.20 and the previous record superfecta $91,764.50 (both in 2002).
"We never had him ready like we did today," winning rider Mike Smith said. Indeed, Giacomo had run in very good company but always come up just a bit short. But the big stretch at Churchill Downs proved to his liking, the son of Holy Bull
out of the Stop the Music mare Set Them Free rolling past Closing Argument once he got clear sailing to win by a half-length.
It was a half-length back to Afleet Alex, the 9-2 second choice in the field of 20 who briefly looked like he may surge to victory while racing on the inside in deep stretch. He was 2 1/2 lengths in front of 29-1 Don't Get Mad.
"You can feel when a horse is giving everything he had," said Afleet Alex's jockey Jeremy Rose. "He just had nothing left. I think that is the first time I've seen a horse outside me that I could not get by."
George Steinbrenner's Bellamy Road, the 5-2 favorite who had been compared to Secretariat after his track-record tying 17 1/2-length win in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, checked in seventh after leading briefly coming out of the turn for home.
Giacomo was winning just the second race of his life. He broke his maiden in his second start last fall at Santa Anita and then ran third in an allowance race before running second in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) a length behind Declan's Moon.
Declan's Moon was the early Derby favorite until he was injured.
Giacomo had made three starts this year: he ran third in the Sham Stakes, finished second in the San Felipe (gr. II), and was fourth, beaten just two lengths, in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 9. Smith has ridden him in all seven of his starts.
Giacomo paid $102.60, $45.80, and $19.80 and Closing Argument returned $70 and $24.80. Afleet Alex paid $4.60. It was the second highest winning payoff in Kentucky Derby history, behind only the $184.90 returned by Doneraile in 1913.
Giacomo crossed the wire after 10 furlongs in 2:02.75.
As expected, Spanish Chestnut made the lead out of the gate and was joined by Going Wild. Bellamy Road was third the first time under the wire and Flower Alley was fourth. At that point, Giacomo had only two horses beat.
Spanish Chestnut and Going Wild took the field through a quarter in :22.28 and a half in :45.38. After they had run six furlongs in 1:09.59, Bellamy Road began to make his move, moving up to third behind Spanish Chestnut and High Fly. At the quarter pole, High Fly had the lead and Bellamy Road was just a head behind. Giacomo had moved up from 18th to 11th and Closing Argument, who had been sitting chilly just behind the leaders, was fourth and launching his bid.
Down the stretch, Cornelio Velasquez moved Closing Argument to the lead and Afleet Alex took off like he would also have something to say about the outcome. At the stretch call, Giacomo was still in sixth, but less than three lengths from the leader.
Afleet Alex was on the rail, Closing Argument in the middle, and Giacomo on the outside as they pushed toward the wire. Closing Argument hung tough, not letting Afleet Alex get by.
Giacomo is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, who bred him in Kentucky. Jerry Moss founded A&M Records with Herb Alpert and has produced recordings for many top starts, among them Sting. The dam is named for a Sting song.
The Derby winner is trained by John Shirreffs. Both Shirreffs and Smith were winning their first Derbys.
The complete order of finish was Giacomo, Closing Argument, Afleet Alex, Don't Get Mad, Buzzards Bay, Wilko, Bellamy Road, Andromeda's Hero, Flower Alley, High Fly, Greeley's Galaxy, Coin Silver, Greater Good, Noble Causeway, Sun King, Spanish Chestnut, Sort It Out, Going Wild, Bandini, and High Limit.
The attendance on a beautiful day in Louisville, Ky., was 156,435, not surprising with not only the nice 76 degree weather but a 20-horse field and a new Churchill Downs facility. The day before, a record crowd of 111,243 saw Summerly win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
The largest crowd ever to witness the Derby was for the 100th running of the race in 1974. That day, 163,628 saw Cannonade win the Run for the Roses.
There was certainly some irony in that Giacomo is by Holy Bull, who was favored in the 1994 Derby when he was ridden by Smith. Holy Bull ran 12th in a 14-horse field. Interestingly, that same year the Mosses won the Oaks with Sardula.
Smith had previously finished second three times in the Derby including Lion Heart last year. He also was second on Proud Citizen in 2002 and Prairie Bayou in 1993.
Giacomo had an interesting trip in the Derby, having to make several moves and work his way up from far back in the pack.
"I had to ease him out in the first turn and get around some horses," Smith said. "I worked my way back in there and got bumped around a little. I saw a seam and he runs good on the outside, he just kept grinding and wouldn't stop until he got him (Closing Argument)."
Nick Zito saddled five horses in the Derby for five different owners but favored Bellamy Road, in seventh, was his best finish. Andromeda's Hero ran eighth, High Fly finished 10th, Noble Causeway was 14th, and Sun King ran 15th.
"I didn't see a lot of the race because I was on the ground floor," Shirreffs said. "The fractions were fast, he was wide around the first turn. I didn't pick him up until the three-sixteenths pole. I saw the white shadow roll, and I thought we had a chance to hit the board. Then I said to myself, 'We might win it.' "
Shirreffs said he first thought Giacomo might be a Kentucky Derby horse when he ran second to Declan's Moon. "When he ran second to Declan's Moon and the way he loomed up there, I knew we had a horse of high caliber," he said.
The Mosses have been in racing since 1970 when they started with claiming horses. They bought the dam for $45,000 and she won five of 12 starts and earned $173,275. Her third foal was a Holy Bull filly named Styler, who won two of her four races. Jerry Moss said because they liked Styler, they decided to send the mare back to Holy Bull. In the meantime, Set Them Free produced a filly by Derby winner Sea Hero named Sea Jewel who won two races and was multiple graded stakes placed.
Set Them Free had a colt by Swain in 2003 and this year produced a colt by Pleasant Tap.
There had been some knocking of the California horses in this year's Derby but horses coming out of the Santa Anita Derby ran first, fourth, and fifth. Giacomo is the 15th horse to win the Derby having had his final prep in the Santa Anita Derby.
Shirreffs, who took out his training license in 1978 and now operates a public stable in California, was saddling his first Derby starter. This is the third consecutive year that a trainer sending out his first Derby horse won the race, following Barclay Tagg and Funny Cide in 2003 and John Servis with Smarty Jones last year.
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