Captain Bodgit to race next in Wood Memorial Capuano prefers N.Y. race over Blue Grass because horse can stay at Bowie

March 21, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Captain Bodgit, the top contender for the Kentucky Derby, will race next in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Park, not the Blue Grass Stakes in Keeneland, Ky., as expected.

Racing officials at Keeneland never received Captain Bodgit's nomination form, making him ineligible for the April 12 race, said Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, the California corporation that owns the horse.

Irwin said yesterday that he believes his office sent the form Feb. 23, the day before nominations closed.

"But they did not get one from us," Irwin said. "I really don't know what happened. We just found out [Tuesday]."

Keeneland officials would not accept Captain Bodgit's late entry, Irwin said, so he and Gary Capuano, the horse's Maryland trainer, quickly settled on an alternative race.

The Wood Memorial in New York is the same day, April 12, and the same distance, 1 1/8 miles. The Blue Grass offers a purse of $700,000, compared to the Wood Memorial's $500,000.

"The purse isn't the thing," Capuano said. "It's just getting a good race into him, and getting him out of it safe and sound."

Capuano said he prefers this road to the Derby anyway. It allows him and the horse, both of whom spent the winter at Hialeah Park in southern Florida, to return to Maryland in eight or nine days.

Captain Bodgit will be stabled at Capuano's barn at the Bowie Training Center until the Wood Memorial. The original plan called for Capuano and the horse to travel shortly to Churchill Downs, a prospect Capuano did not relish. The low-key trainer prefers the serenity of Bowie.

Both the Blue Grass and the Wood Memorial will be competitive, although Pulpit, whom Captain Bodgit dispatched Saturday in the Florida Derby, is expected to race in the Blue Grass.

"We're not ducking anybody, believe me," Capuano said. "We don't have to duck anybody."

The change of plans sets up a probable showdown between Captain Bodgit and another highly regarded Maryland 3-year-old: Traitor, who is based at Pimlico and trained by Mary Eppler.

After recovering from a training accident last month, Traitor is to make his 1997 debut either Sunday in the $150,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs or Monday in the $100,000 Ocala Breeders Sale Championship Stakes at the Ocala Training Center in Florida. The latter race is for horses that passed through the sale.

Eppler said she's leaning toward the Ocala race because it's more convenient for Traitor's jockey, John Velazquez.

"Money's not an issue," said Eppler who, like Capuano, has spent the winter at Hialeah Park. "Getting a race under his belt is what's important now.

"If he runs good, we'll come back and run him in the Wood Memorial. That'll get a good prep in him for the Kentucky Derby."

The Kentucky Derby is May 3.

Pub Date: 3/21/97

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