Fountain of Youth run to test Pulpit's speed Triple Crown preview set today at Gulfstream

February 22, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Pulpit grasps for stardom and Captain Bodgit for credibility, as the most competitive Triple Crown preview so far this year, the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, unfolds today at Gulfstream Park.

Racing's newest sensation, Pulpit, tests his lightning-fast speed against the grit and experience of several of the top 3-year-olds in the East.

Among them is Captain Bodgit, trained by Gary Capuano and based at Bowie but working this winter in southern Florida.

The 1 1/16-mile race for Kentucky Derby and Preakness aspirants will be televised on ESPN. Post time is 5: 12 p.m.

"At this time, on Feb. 22, this is as tough as it gets," said D. Wayne Lukas, winner of the past two Kentucky Derbys and seven of the past eight Triple Crown races.

Lukas enters Wright- wood, whom he calls this year's Grindstone, the surprise winner of last year's Kentucky Derby. But it is Pulpit, not a Lukas- or Nick Zito-trained runner, whom some are trumpeting as the second coming of Secretariat.

But Lukas said, "He's still got some hurdles to overcome before we can declare him Secretariat II."

Pulpit has run only two races, both this year, but has won them spectacularly. He is, astonishingly, the Las Vegas winter-book favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Only one horse -- and that was in 1882 -- has won the Kentucky Derby without racing at 2.

Pulpit breaks from post No. 2, between the race's two most accomplished runners, Arthur L. and Acceptable.

Arthur L. has won three stakes in a row by bounding to the lead and never looking back. But Acceptable, owned by George teinbrenner and trained by Zito, may be the best in the nine-horse field. He missed winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a neck.

Zito doesn't seem intimidated by Pulpit -- even though jockey Shane Sellers gave up his mount on Acceptable to ride Pulpit. Zito promptly placed Jerry Bailey aboard Acceptable.

"Believe me, he's not going to push Acceptable around," Zito said of Pulpit. "That's impossible. I know that for a fact."

Jack Flash, Blazing Sword, Frisk Me Now, Confide and Wrightwood -- seemingly rejuvenated after throat surgery to correct a breathing problem -- are legitimate contenders for the Triple Crown races. But the eyes of Marylanders will focus on one of their own, Captain Bodgit, winner of five straight last year in Maryland and Delaware.

He is a stretch runner suited for the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles, but the Gulfstream track has been so hard that stretch runners are struggling to catch up.

"That's a big disadvantage for us," Capuano said. "People with horses who come from off the pace don't even want to enter them. A lot of the best horses aren't winning."

Still, Capuano said Captain Bodgit has trained marvelously. And this will be the horse's first start for new owners Team Valor, a California corporation, and with new jockey Alex Solis, the leading rider in southern California.

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, said that because of the fast track he will be satisfied if Captain Bodgit closes strongly to within a few lengths of the winner.

"I'd just like to see the horse show he can run with these guys," Irwin said.

Pub Date: 2/22/97

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