Capuano shrugs off slow start

February 11, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

An uncustomary ice storm hit Hot Springs, Ark., yesterday and forced Oaklawn Park to cancel its card.

To Marylander Dale Capuano, who shipped about 30 horses there from Laurel Race Course almost a month ago, it was just another unexpected twist to his first Midwest campaign.

Capuano, 31, is used to saddling winners. In 1991, he was PTC Maryland's leading trainer and since then he has been second each year in the standings to King Leatherbury. This winter he thought he'd do something different and take his string out of town before returning for Pimlico's spring meet.

But he's finding it's taking a little longer to get his stable acclimated to Oaklawn Park than he expected.

Through the meet's first couple of weeks, Capuano's horses have compiled several seconds and thirds, but he has yet to run a winner.

"It takes a lot to get me rattled," Capuano said yesterday. "We've been slow getting started, but I'm not discouraged and I'm still excited about being here. We've had some setbacks with a couple of our better horses, but it seems our claimers fit in fairly well."

Bad luck hit Foxie G., the winner of the Ambernash Stakes at Laurel on Jan. 1, who was ill when he first arrived at Oaklawn. "Then Honorable Flight [Capuano's Triple Crown nominee] missed some training and he's not ready to run," Capuano said. "But I do have Greatsilverfleet in tomorrow. It's an allowance race, and I hope to run him back in the Essex Handicap [March 5]."

Depending on how he runs, Greatsilverfleet -- who was second )) to Northern Launch in the Dec. 26 Congressional Handicap -- could clash with Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, Valley Crossing, in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 16.

Capuano said his biggest surprise is the speed bias at Oaklawn. "Trip and post position mean everything," Capuano said. "If you don't draw posts 1 through 5, then forget it. The track is harder and the turns tighter than at Laurel and it makes Pimlico look like it doesn't have a bias at all."

But, he added, as the weather improves "I'm told the surface evens out after the meet gets going."

So far, Capuano said, he has claimed three horses and had three horses claimed from him, including Scouting Buck and A Laughing Devil.

"There are certain categories, such as allowance races, that are tougher than Maryland," he said. "But at the same time, Sticks And Bricks [trained by Dick Small] came out here and won a stakes [the King Cotton on Jan. 29]. I just have to figure where my horses fit and then place them there."

Capuano said he has been using a range of jockeys, including Shane and Randy Romero and Garrett Gomez. He said leading rider Pat Day has been unavailable so far.

"The best thing I like about the place is that the whole town is

into racing," Capuano said. "The stands are packed and you can't get a seat in the dining room without a reservation. That's a big change from Maryland.

"I'm sure things will work out. We've only had nine racing days since the meet began [Jan. 21]. My owners are good and they are sticking with me. As long as they stay cool-headed, I'll be fine."

New York could lift ban

Lenny Hale, Laurel/Pimlico vice president of racing, said the New York Racing Association tracks might lift the ban prohibiting shipping horses to out-of-state tracks by Wednesday.

"If so, then we'll be OK for New York horses that want to ship here for the Barbara Fritchie [Feb. 19]," Hale said. The ban was imposed when several horses at Belmont Park came down with an equine herpes virus.

NOTES: Aqueduct and Philadelphia Park were closed yesterday, but Laurel was able to run because the racing surface was in surprisingly good shape. Track superintendent John Passero had sealed the strip, and a protective layer of ice had formed that didn't allow rain to penetrate the surface. "When the ice was taken off, the track underneath was fine," said Laurel/Pimlico GM John E. Mooney. "But who knows what we can expect today."

Former trainer Timothy Boyce has become a jockey's agent and is booking mounts for Kenny Skinner and William Moorefield. Boyce is also a field representative for the Fasig-Tipton horse auctioneering firm.

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