LAUREL -- The passing of the torch could not have been more timely, more smooth, more symbolic.
Silver Tango completed a transition yesterday for the Capuano family. The filly picked up right where Silano had left off when winning the Francis Scott Key Handicap at Laurel Race Course.
"We hope she'll carry us now, the way Silano did for all that time," said the family patriarch, Phil Capuano.
Yesterday morning, Capuano decided to retire Silano, an 8-year-old gelding. "He'd been too good to us to let him go toward the bottom," he said. "He's coming home to our farm. He'll stay in the barn that he built."
A stakes performer virtually from his 1986 beginnings, Silano lifted the Capuanos from racetrack fringe players into one of Maryland's "name" families, winning 20 races and $693,523. Gary Capuano, son of Phil and his wife, Connie, trains Silver Tango, who ran her sprint record to 8-for-8 (9-for-11 overall) yesterday with a rallying, 1 3/4 -length triumph over five other fillies and mares.
Dale Capuano, Gary's older brother, trained Silano. Dale was the leading trainer in Maryland in wins last year, dethroning King Leatherbury from a 15-year reign.
Phil Capuano said Silano did not incur serious injury when finishing last at Philadelphia Park in his 67th and final start on Thursday. But Silano had become slightly arthritic, he said, and an ankle had become chronic trouble.
While Silano's form tailed off in recent months, Silver Tango -- an offspring of the obscure sire Silver Badge, like Silano -- became a presence among Maryland's female corps. Yesterday, the filly drew off from Clever Mary and Absolutely Great late in the 6 1/2 -furlong Francis Scott Key, maintaining one-turn perfection and increasing her earnings to $210,070.
"At the three-sixteenths pole, she really took off," said winning rider Edgar Prado.
The victory was the fourth of the day for Prado, who has a 17-win margin over Mike Luzzi among all Laurel jockeys.
NOTES: Today's Laurel program will consist of just 9 races so that patrons can leave early to watch the NFC championship game involving the Redskins. Beginning Tuesday, the track will card 9 races on weekdays and 10 on weekends. The 1-race reduction per card will be in effect until a horse shortage eases. . . . Jockey Larry Reynolds has been dealt a 7-day suspension for a riding infraction Thursday. The penalty is scheduled to begin tomorrow.