Capuano basks in Captain's glow Maryland trainer enjoys enhanced Derby status

March 17, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HIALEAH, Fla. -- The morning after, Gary Capuano ambled into his barn at Hialeah Park at 6: 45. He was grinning, as he often is, and not hurrying, as he seldom does -- merely reporting to work as if this were another day of training modestly talented horses.

But yesterday, hot walkers, grooms, exercise riders and other trainers -- everyone who spotted the mild-mannered trainer from Maryland -- hollered, "Congratulations," "Way to go, Gary," "We're happy for you, man."

On Saturday, Capuano-trained Captain Bodgit ran himself and his trainer into the role of favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Captain Bodgit beat Pulpit and six other 3-year-olds in the $500,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, about 20 miles northeast of Hialeah near the Atlantic Ocean.

In the harried aftermath of easily the biggest win for Capuano, 33 -- his first Grade I stakes win -- reporters, well-wishers and hangers-on practically smothered him. And that, if his horse continues to run as powerfully, was just the beginning.

"It wasn't too bad -- a lot of fun actually," Capuano said. "It's nice to be in that spot. When you lose, nobody wants to talk to you."

In four weeks, on April 12, Captain Bodgit is to race in the $700,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Ky., and three weeks after that, on May 3, in the $1 million Kentucky Derby.

In both races, Captain Bodgit again will meet Pulpit in what is developing into a nifty little rivalry. In two meetings so far, they've each won once.

And sometime in the next week or two, Capuano said, Captain Bodgit will travel to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. He'll reside there, in the same stable area as Pulpit, for the next two races.

"He came out of the race fine," Capuano said of Captain Bodgit. "It didn't seem like the race took too much out of him. He doesn't seem any worse for wear.

"In the Fountain of Youth, I think he had to run a little harder. The next day, he was a little knocked out. He usually bounces back so fast."

Most important, Captain Bodgit's unsightly tendon in his left foreleg seemed fine, Capuano said. The horse strained it one year ago before Capuano began training him. Although it bulges noticeably, it has never bothered him, Capuano said.

And how did Capuano come out of the race?

"I did real good," he said, laughing. "I'd been sleeping good -- up to last night. But last night, it took me a while to get to sleep."

After the race, he went to dinner and then back to his condominium with his wife, Angie, and children, Phillip and Victoria. He answered countless calls on his mobile phone, including one from home from his brother, Dale, the leading trainer in Maryland.

"He wanted to come, but he's just got too much work up there," Gary said. "But he's tickled to death. He told me three months ago: 'You go to the Derby, that's the race I won't miss.' "

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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