Classic Pedigree Profile: Giacomo

Classic Pedigree Profile: Giacomo
Photo: Barbara D. Livingston
Classic contender Giacomo
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In 1860, *Eclipse, a stakes-winning son of the Derby Stakes winner Orlando, made his first stud season in the United States, beginning the oldest male lines in North America. Over one hundred and forty years later, the male line of *Eclipse still exists through two major branches, both descended from *Eclipse's grandson Himyar. One, that of the great speedster Domino, survives through the sons of 1994 U.S. leading sire Broad Brush. The other, that of the 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit, is represented by 1994 U.S. Horse of the Year Holy Bull and his sons, among which is 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo.

Giacomo is a different kettle of fish from the best-known runners from the Plaudit line, who gained their reputation on the basis of raw brilliance. The most famous was the great Dr. Fager, a seventh-generation descendant of Plaudit. The champion sprinter of 1967, Dr. Fager not only repeated as champion sprinter in 1968 but won additional titles as champion handicap male, champion turf horse, and Horse of the Year, making him the only horse ever to win titles in four categories in a single year. His records of 1:20-1/5 for seven furlongs under 139 pounds and 1:32-1/5 for one mile under 134 pounds are still reckoned as two of the most remarkable performances in the history of the American Turf.

Although Dr. Fager, who died at the age of 12, earned a posthumous title as U.S. leading sire in 1976, he did not get a worthy successor. It fell to Minnesota Mac, another son of Rough n' Tumble, to continue the line through his son Great Above (who was produced from two-time champion sprinter Ta Wee) to Holy Bull.

Holy Bull, who was produced from the Al Hattab mare Sharon Brown, combined the flashing speed of Ta Wee with the stamina of Al Hattab and his sire, the *Mahmoud horse The Axe II. Speedy enough to rack up a blazing Beyer speed figure of 122 in winning the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), Holy Bull had the stamina and courage to duel a rabbit through three-quarters of a mile in 1:10-2/5 in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and still stand off a quality closer in eventual Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Concern. His race in the Woodward Stakes was also impressive as Holy Bull toyed with a star-studded field of older males to romp home by five lengths in a swift 1:46-4/5.

What promised to be an equally brilliant 4-year-old season was ended by a misstep in the Donn Handicap (gr. I), and Holy Bull headed off to stud. He has been a useful but not exceptional sire, his best runner so far probably being 2000 U.S. champion juvenile Macho Uno.

Giacomo, although a consistent, hard-trying sort, is a more one-paced animal than his sire. That he has not shown more tactical speed is somewhat surprising given both the tactical speed of Holy Bull and the fact that his dam, Set Them Free, was a stakes-winning sprinter in her own right.

Stop the Music, sire of Set Them Free, was also quite effective over shorter trips and was precocious enough to win the Saratoga Special and the Champagne Stakes (the latter on the disqualification of Secretariat). At 3, he demonstrated enough stamina to win the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and run second in the Travers Stakes (gr. I). His best runners included 1980 Laurel Futurity (gr. I) winner Cure the Blues, a leading regional sire in New York until his death in 1999 and two-time grade I winner Missy's Mirage.

Giacomo does have two things going for him at Churchill Downs: he has already proved that he can handle the distance, and he clearly likes the track. He will doubtless be a longshot in the Breeders' Cup Classic–Powered By Dodge (gr. I), but should he pull off the upset once again, he will go to stud next year with wins in two of North America's most prestigious races under his belt, earning him the right to try to continue one of America's oldest bloodlines.

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