It was a bit of the good news, bad news story for the 2-year-old colt Capitano in the Oct. 5 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. He finished a solid second, defeating seven other juveniles. However, he finished 14 lengths in arrears of Ruler's Court on the day. Perhaps the best news for the son of Belong to Me is Ruler's Court will not be appearing in Saturday's Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
"I think my horse can make up four or five lengths, but 14? I wasn't too confident about that," said trainer Ray Bell. "But the defection of that horse and all the others definitely impacted our decsion to run. All we have to do is go from his stall over to the receiving barn, so why not?"
Indeed, Capitano is one of the Breeders' Cup entrants with the home field advantage of racing where he trains. Bell himself has been a fixture on the California scene for a couple of decades. He is the son of trainer Tom Bell, who saddled 1980 Kentucky Derby runner-up Rumbo, and the grandson of cowboy and trainer Ray Bell Sr. The current Ray Bell captured a fourth in the 1987 Juvenile with Flying Victor, and had the previously undefeated Barberstown finish third in the 1983 Belmont Stakes. He also trained multiple stakes winner Twice the Vice, one of the toughest race mares on the Southern California circuit in the early '90s.
Now, he feels Capitano is on track for a big run in the Juvenile. "He has proved to me he is a horse of quality and potential. He re-proved it to me with his second in the Best Pal (gr. II). So I pointed him in the direction of the Juvenile figuring if he was coming good on the day we're right here and all we have to do is lead him over. He greatly benefited from the Norfolk. He wasn't geared up tight and he got seasoning by going the two-turns over the surface.
"He's a battler. He wears blinkers and I've opened them up, so if it comes down to a ding-dong the last 100 yards, he's not going to disgrace himself."
Capitano, out of the Tabasco Cat mare Heavenly Cat, was purchased out of last year's Keeneland yearling sale for $53,000, and was subsequently bought privately last spring by Bell for new owners Mr. and Mrs. Vicken Meguerditchian, who purchased their first horse less than a year ago. "The owners have come a long way quickly, and I keep reminding them of how lucky they've been," said Bell.
As for Bell, he considers the Juvenile one of the biggest thrills of his career, particularly if Capitano can give an improving account of his talent. "This training thing has been passed on through the generations of my family," he noted. A Breeders' Cup win and possible champion would put quite an exclamation point on the family business.