Trainer says Pulpit showed his courage 2nd-place effort proves 'he's a young horse'

March 16, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- Although Captain Bodgit knocked Pulpit off his throne, don't write him off yet.

If expectations for Pulpit in yesterday's Florida Derby had not been outrageously high, his second-place finish would have been worthy of praise.

"It was probably his best race," said his trainer, Frank Brothers. "He's a young horse. He's still learning. This was just his fourth start."

In his first three starts, Pulpit soared to the top of the 3-year-old division because of his speed and breeding. He is as richly bred as they come, a son of A.P. Indy out of Preach (and grandson of Seattle Slew and Mr. Prospector).

"I'm a little disappointed," said Brothers, who trained Hansel in 1991 when he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. "He didn't leave the gate running today, the way he usually does. He didn't leave blitzing. But he showed a lot of courage out there.

"It'd been great for the sport if he had stayed undefeated. But if he comes out of the race OK, I think he'll still be in the picture."

Pulpit will fly early this week to Brothers' barn at Churchill Downs, where he'll train for the Blue Grass Stakes on April 12 in Keeneland, Ky., and the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

His jockey, Shane Sellers, who had said this young colt was already just about the best horse he had ever ridden, wasn't able to explain Pulpit's lack of early spark in the race.

"He just wasn't the same horse as last time," Sellers said, referring to Pulpit's easy win Feb. 22 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. "When I asked him for a kick, it just wasn't the same.

"But I'm still proud of him, and I'm still confident in his ability."

Not Acceptable

After Pulpit at 2-5 and Captain Bodgit at 7-2, the third choice at the windows was Acceptable, trained by Nick Zito and owned by George Steinbrenner. His second-place finish in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile earned a spot at the top of many handicappers' Kentucky Derby list.

But yesterday, he threw in his second straight clunker.

"No excuse at all," said his jockey, Jerry Bailey. "None. He just did not run."

'Really moving'

Alex Solis, who flew in from California to ride Captain Bodgit, was as excited afterward as the colt's Maryland trainer, Gary Capuano.

"I was following Pulpit all the way around there," said Solis, the leading rider on Southern California's tough circuit. "I thought he was the horse to beat.

"When we got to the five-sixteenths pole, I asked my horse a little bit. He gave me a big kick right away. I almost ran over Pulpit at the quarter pole.

"I had to swerve out a little bit. My horse was really moving."

Back to Baltimore?

In an earlier race at Gulfstream Park, Louis Quatorze took the first steps toward a return visit to Baltimore, winning the $75,000 Creme Fraiche Handicap.

The Grade III, 1 1/16-mile race was the 1997 debut for Louis Quatorze, winner of last year's Preakness Stakes. His trainer, Zito, said the 4-year-old colt's primary target now is the $600,000 Pimlico Special on May 10.

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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