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Matchup of winners is no contest


ELMONT, N.Y. - The Belmont showdown between Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners lasted about two strides. That's how long it took Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness, to power past Giacomo, who won the Derby, in the Belmont Stakes yesterday at Belmont Park.

After that brief confrontation around the final turn favored Afleet Alex so convincingly, Giacomo faded to seventh. Mike Smith, his jockey, said the colt suffered breathing problems. Smith said that can happen when a horse gets overexcited.

John Shirreffs, Giacomo's trainer, said the colt became upset when he had to move about 11 a.m. yesterday from his barn to a monitored barn. All the Belmont horses were required to spend the afternoon in the same monitored barn under the watchful eye of a security force. The purpose was to prevent the administration of illegal drugs that could affect the outcome of the race.

Giacomo had just started to take a nap when he had to move, Shirreffs said. Then, he didn't like his new stall.

"He was a little keyed up today," Shirreffs said.

Smith said he tried to steer Giacomo to the outside and lower his head, because that sometimes corrects the problem. It didn't this time.

"I won't take anything away from Afleet Alex," Smith said. "He ran great today." ...

Nick Zito, trainer of three Belmont entrants, including runner-up Andromeda's Hero, also praised Afleet Alex.

"It's an honor to be second to this great horse," Zito said.

Rafael Bejarano, jockey of Andromeda's Hero, pursued Afleet Alex when he began passing horses around the final turn.

"When he moved at the three-eighths pole, I followed him," Bejarano said. "And when I asked my horse at the quarter pole, he started running strong. But Afleet Alex just ran away."

Meanwhile, Dale Romans, trainer of Nolan's Cat, was pleased with his winless colt, who broke far behind the field and rallied for third.

"He's the best maiden in the country," Romans said.

'Fog' wins; 'Funny' loses

Lost in the Fog, perhaps the most exciting horse in the country, won, and Funny Cide, perhaps the most popular, lost in stakes on the Belmont undercard.

California-based Lost in the Fog remained undefeated by winning the $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup, a Grade II sprint of seven furlongs. Ridden by Edgar Prado, filling in for the injured Russell Baze, Lost in the Fog scored by 1 1/4 lengths in 1 minute, 21.54 seconds for his seventh victory. Egg Head finished second, Middle Earth third.

"I think this was his toughest race," said Greg Gilchrist, trainer of Lost in the Fog, the 2-5 favorite. "You knew that when we drew the 2 hole we were going to get challenged two or three times. It takes a pretty good horse to fend off half the field. ... They softened him up a little bit, but believe me, their tongues were hanging out trying to catch him."

New York-bred Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, finished fifth in the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap after bobbling around the turn when Cuba cut in on him. Cuba, who finished third, was disqualified to fifth and Funny Cide elevated to fourth. Limehouse, 5-2, and Gygistar, the 2-1 favorite, finished first and second, respectively, in the Grade II stakes of 1 1/8 miles around one turn.

"I'm not happy about the finish," said Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide. "He came into the race absolutely perfect. He was running well, and then I saw Jose [Santos] pull back. He damn near fell down."

Et cetera

Good Reward and Relaxed Gesture, 14-1 and 13-1, respectively, finished one-two in the $400,000 Manhattan Handicap, a Grade I stakes of 1 1/4 miles on turf. Artie Schiller, the 9-5 favorite, finished third. ... Trained by Bill Mott, the 5-year-old mare Sand Springs captured the $300,000 Just a Game Breeders' Cup, a Grade II stakes of one mile on turf. The 3-5 favorite Intercontinental finished second. ... Although trainer Bob Baffert didn't have a horse in the Belmont, he won the $200,000 True North Breeders' Cup, a Grade II stakes of six furlongs, with Woke Up Dreamin, a 5-year-old son of Holy Bull.

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