Maryland's 'Cat,' 'Carl' exit road to Derby

On Horse Racing

March 15, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

For two Maryland trainers, the road to the Kentucky Derby has reached a dead end. Dick Dutrow and Dale Capuano have concluded that their promising 3-year-olds, Spartan Cat and Just Call Me Carl, are better off chasing riches closer to home.

After Spartan Cat's rousing, last-to-first charge last weekend in the Herat Stakes at Laurel Park, Dutrow and Peter Angelos, who owns the Mountain Cat colt, decided that more home cooking might be the proper nourishment.

Instead of the Gotham and possibly the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct, the Private Terms on March 28 at Laurel and Federico Tesio Stakes on April 18 at Pimlico now head the menu.

"The Derby isn't in the picture right now," said Dutrow, referring to the Kentucky Derby.

Angelos, majority owner of the Orioles, has been in the horse business 15 to 20 years, he said. But he's never had a 3-year-old good enough for the Derby. Spartan Cat apparently is nearly that good.

"I guess anything's possible; that's what makes this such a great sport," Angelos said. "But I don't want to start thinking about the Derby. That's such a long shot."

Nevertheless, Spartan Cat's late kick is what you look for in a Derby prospect. He circled his seven rivals in the Herat and won by two lengths. One who faded down the stretch was Just Call Me Carl.

"He got real tired after that race," Capuano said of the Strawberry Road colt. "The Derby's out. He's a nice horse, but he doesn't have enough foundation to go to the Derby."

Capuano, who also had eyed the Gotham and Wood, is looking at the same schedule as Spartan Cat: the Private Terms and Tesio. "The Preakness is also a possibility," Capuano said.

Caution on 'Diana'

Another horse whose schedule has changed is Countess Diana, trained by Bill Mott at Payson Park in South Florida.

Mott inherited the 2-year-old champion filly from Patrick Byrne, who gave up his public stable to work exclusively for the Canadian Frank Stronach. Richard Kaster, principal owner of Countess Diana, now 3, had hoped she'd recover from winter knee surgery in time for the Oaks.

"She's doing good," Mott said. "She's back in training, jogging and galloping. But we're talking about a horse coming off surgery."

He said she probably won't race until late May, at the earliest. The daughter of Deerhound and T.V. Countess, Countess Diana is a product of Maryland.

Award to Skip Away

Although Skip Away lost the Horse of the Year award to Favorite Trick, he received the Fans' Choice Award last week from the Daily Racing Form. Owned by Carolyn Hine, Skip Away out-polled Favorite Trick 1,224 votes to 946.

Carolyn's husband, Sonny, who trains Skip Away, plans on shipping the horse to Maryland for the Pimlico Special on May 9. But the anticipated showdown with Gentlemen and Silver Charm will probably not take place.

After scratching Silver Charm because of a slightly bruised foot from last weekend's Santa Anita Handicap, Bob Baffert and the horse's owners, Beverly and Bob Lewis, abruptly decided to send him to the Middle East for the $4 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.

After that, Baffert said, Silver Charm probably won't compete until the summer at Del Mar.

And Gentlemen, who bled from the lungs during his surprising last-place finish in the Big 'Cap, may not race again until the California Stakes on May 31, according to his trainer, Richard Mandella.

Ryan recognition

Jim Ryan, the Maryland resident long immersed in racing issues, received the Orchid Award of Excellence on Thursday at the Florida Derby Gala at the Indian Creek Country Club near Bal Harbour, Fla.

Ryan was honored for his humanitarian efforts in the racing industry. He has been instrumental in starting alcohol- and drug-treatment programs for racetrack workers, trying to improve accommodations for backstretch workers and helping people in various other ways.

He named one of his horses, Ops Smile, after Operation Smile, a Virginia-based organization of medical workers that performs operations on needy patients, mainly children, with facial deformities. He donated the horse's winnings to the organization.

More slots in Delaware?

The Delaware General Assembly reconvenes Tuesday, and slot machines are on the agenda.

Delaware lawmakers failed to agree last month on legislation that would double the number of slot machines permitted at the state's three racetracks.

Although the central dispute has not been resolved -- how the state's take from slots would be distributed -- the legislation will surely pass in some form, because the law authorizing slots at tracks expires June 30.

Nevertheless, Michael Strine, a spokesman for the Delaware Department of Finance, said the impact on Maryland racing will be much less than feared.

At the moment, Delaware Park and Dover Downs have 1,000 machines, and Harrington Raceway has 580. Current law limits each track to 1,000.

Even if that number is doubled to 2,000, Strine said, Dover Downs probably won't add any in the near future. Harrington will add only 120 (for a total of 700), Strine said.

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