LAUREL -- When a horse is 7 years old, hasn't raced in two months and has to give 4 to 10 pounds to the toughest campaigners in the territory, it might be worrying time. But the Capuanos of Upper Marlboro do not worry about their family horse.
Silano is the 5-2 favorite in the $75,000 Harrison Johnson Memorial Handicap, the Laurel feature for Martin Luther King Day today, and trainer Dale Capuano thinks he should be.
Capuano's baby face makes it hard to believe, but he has had his hands on a decade of thoroughbreds since his father allowed him to apply for a trainer's license at 18. Phil Capuano required that Dale first finish his work at Largo High School. He did, on a work-study program.
"Silano runs well when he's fresh," Dale Capuano said, "and he should be fit."
There are reasons why the gelding hasn't raced since Nov. 17. One of his races was canceled along with the rest of the card because of snow. He was scratched from another that went in deep mud, the only thing Silano seems to have disliked through his 59-race career.
"He's been a pleasure to train," Dale said of the sturdy $673,577 winner. Silano was home-bred by Dale's father, who was a Maryland trainer for 20 years. "He'll work fast, slow, whatever you ask him to do."
When a good-looking, consistently healthy male horse has won 19 races at several distances and been in the money 43 times, there can be second thoughts about whether gelding him was such a good idea. The Capuanos have no such misgivings.
"We did it when he was a yearling," Dale said. "He was tough, had a ratty kind of disposition. You have to figure it was the best thing. You couldn't ask for better behavior."
The star of Dale Capuano's 40-horse stable at Bowie has done his homework, fast and slow, for this race. On a "good" track Thursday he went five-eighths of a mile in a minute and four-fifths seconds, an earnest effort.
Four days earlier, in the slop he abhors, Silano labored a mile in 1:44. When the outdoor track has been unfit, Silano has galloped in the Hacienda, Bowie's covered oval. "It's better than walking around the shed row," Capuano said.
To many trainers being stabled at Bowie would be back-of-the-bus treatment, but Capuano doesn't mind. "It must be all right [to train there]," he said. "Nobody's won any more this year."
Big Upheavel's nose victory at $3.40 in the fourth race yesterday was Capuano's 12th of 1991. Broker Don's score at 6-5 in the ninth made it 13. Nobody in Maryland has won as many.
The horse most formidable to Silano in the nine-furlong stake today, Capuano figures, is Jet Stream, the second choice on the program at 7-2. They have not met since the John B. Campbell Handicap at Pimlico last April 14.
On that occasion Jet Stream, Gretchen Mobberly's homebred by Thirty Eight Paces, won at $12.40 and Silano, the favorite, was third, five lengths back.
The Johnson Memorial Handicap is named for the trainer who died in a plane crash while returning from Saratoga in 1985. His widow, Lynette, will present the trophy.