Capo Kane One To Watch On Derby Trail; Greatest Honour Impresses; Longtime Racing Publication Closes
By Mike Farrell
Capo Kane doesn’t fit the profile of your typical Triple Crown contender.
He is a California-bred who trains at Parx. Harold Wyner, his conditioner, wins a fair share of races just north of Philadelphia without making a splash on the national scene.
That could all change, if Capo Kane is the real deal.
We will find out more Saturday when Aqueduct offers the $250,000 Withers Stakes (G3). The Florida 3-year-old action shifts to Tampa Bay Downs for the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3).
This will be the second straight trip from Parx to Aqueduct for Capo Kane, a dominant winner of the Jerome in the mud on New Year’s Day. That victory improved his record to 2-1-0 in three starts.
This will be his first graded appearance with 10 Derby qualifying points going to the winner.
“He’s more aggressive and waking up,” Wyner said of the colt’s development since the Jerome.
The other probable runners for the Withers include Eagle Orb and Hold the Salsa (second and third, respectively, in the Jerome), Shackqueenking (winner of the Howard County Stakes at Laurel) and Overtook.
Down south, Nova Rags looks like the headliner in the Sam F. Davis that also offers 10 Derby qualifying points.
The son of Union Rags already owns a stakes win over the track, the Pasco on Jan. 16 for trainer Bill Mott.
Greatest Honour wins on style points
There’s no question Greatest Honour was the flashier winner of the two Grade 3 Kentucky Derby prep races on Saturday.
Greatest Honour powered to a 5 ¾-length victory in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. About two hours later, Medina Spirit held on by a neck in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.
The victories were each worth 10 Derby qualifying points. For horseplayers polishing their crystal balls, Greatest Honour looked more the part of a Derby contender.
After a slow start, Greatest Honour improved position down the backstretch before Jose Ortiz put him into the game with a four-wide sweep on the turn. In an instant, Greatest Honour powered by the pacesetting Willy Boi, eventual runner-up Tarantino and even-money favorite Prime Factor.
It was the kind of dynamic move that works so very well at Churchill Downs.
“I’m really, really proud of him today,” said Hall of Famer trainer Shug McGaughey. “Jose said he had plenty of horse. He was just kind of playing through the stretch, and that would be him. I told my wife, the pressure begins now.”
McGaughey has been down this road before, finally getting his Derby win with Orb in 2013. His latest prospect is a homebred for the Courtlandt Farm who debuted at Saratoga in early September.
It took the colt a while to get the hang of the game, breaking his maiden in the fourth attempt. He stepped up smartly from that initial win to score the eye-catching victory in the Holy Bull.
The next logical step on the Florida road to the Triple Crown is the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 27.
McGaughey is thinking that way but did not rule out waiting for the Florida Derby (G1) on March 27.
“If I think we need to wait a little bit, he’s not going to be a hard horse for me to have ready for the Florida Derby.”
The biggest bust in the Holy Bull was Prime Factor, who had a perfect trip before finishing third. Let’s not be too hard on him. This was only his second race following a blowout maiden win at 6 furlongs. The stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles and the added experience will be a help down road for the $900,000 yearling purchase from the Todd Pletcher barn.
Out west, Medina Spirit improved on his second-place effort to stablemate Life Is Good in the Sham Stakes (G3) to add another contender to the Bob Baffert brigade.
Unlike Greatest Honour, Medina Spirit scored his win on the lead, gamely holding off Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie.
Critics immediately pointed to the timer. Greatest Honour stopped the clock in 1:43.19, a little over 2 seconds off the track mark.
Medina Spirit ran the same distance in 1:46.26, 3 seconds slower than Greatest Honour and more than 7 seconds slower than the track record. In his defense, the track was rated good following recent heavy rain.
“Horseman and Fair World” crosses the finish line
A 144-year journalistic tradition ended abruptly last week with the announcement that “Horseman and Fair World” was halting publication.
The magazine chronicled every major event in harness racing from its inception to the final edition.
It’s a dual loss as another print publication bites the dust, and racing loses a vital information outlet.
It was a complete shutdown. In addition to the magazine, the Harness Racing Weekly Preview and harnessracing.com all ceased operations.
We wish general manager Kathy Parker and associate editor Gordon Waterstone all the best in the future. It’s a cold, cruel world out there for journalists in general.
It’s even tougher for those with a passion for horse racing.