Il Capitano Carries Top Weight in Turf Writers Cup

Edited from track reports
Il Capitano, a 6-year-old gelding who has spent most of his career in England, is the highweight and highly unknown factor in Thursday's 62nd running of the $100,000-added New York Turf Writers Cup, the major steeplechase stakes race of the Saratoga Race Course season and a National Steeplechase Association grade I race. The race, at 2 3/8 miles, is run over national fences and will be the last race of a nine-race card.

The chestnut son of Be My Chief is one of two starters entered for trainer Doug Fout, the other being the French-bred Golden Marvel. In his last three start, Il Capitano has two, distant third-place finishes and one race in which he did not finish at all; nevertheless, Il Capitano is the highweight for Thursday at 158 pound. He will spot his 11 rivals anywhere from four to 19 pounds. Golden Marvel will carry 142 pounds.

"We got hit a little hard in the weights, especially since a horse like Praise the Prince (assigned 150 pounds) has graded stakes and grade I victories to his credit," Fout said. "But what are you going to do?"

This will be Il Capitano's first start in this country and first for Fout, who purchased him less than two weeks ago for owner John K. Luke's Eldon Farm Racing Stable. Fout likes versatility -- he himself is a trainer, a director of the National Steeplechase Association and course manager at Glenwood Park in Virginia -- and he liked what he saw in Il Capitano.

"Mr. Luke is a relatively new owner, and we had been looking for a horse for the Turf Writers Cup," Fout said. "We looked all around the world for a good horse, and my contact over in England had been looking for horses for us, and he has done some good work for me in the past. He told me about this one. I got on the plane Friday night, got to England on Saturday afternoon, schooled him, galloped him, bought him and was on my way back on Sunday. What I liked about this horse was his attitude. He also had a great record and a lot of experience in all types of racing: on the flat, over hurdles and over those big 'chase fences they have over there."

Fout's other entry, Beverly R. Steinman's Golden Marvel, ran fifth in the Smithwick, but should benefit from the stretchout.

"I think the distance will help both of my horses," Fout said. "I have always had high hopes for this horse. He has a lot of talent and was the leading novice horse two years ago. Then, he had some heel and foot problems last year. He had some bleeding issues in the Smithwick. We didn't find much when we scoped him, but a lot showed in the tracheal wash. We resolved that, and I think he will run a good race." Robert Massey has the mount on Golden Marvel, while Robert Walsh will pilot Il Capitano.

Tommy Voss, who won the National Steeplechase Association's leading trainer title for the third consecutive year in 2002, has entered Fox Ridge Farm's Anofferucantrefuse in the New York Turf Writers Cup. The 6-year-old son of Red Ransom won the NSA grade II A.P. Smithwick Memorial here on Aug. 7, leading at every call over the 2 1/16 miles.

Voss won this race in 1996 with Petroski, but to duplicate that feat with Anoferucantrefuse, he will have to overcome post 12 in here.

Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard has entered only Hotspur for this event. Owned by Peachtree Stable, the 6-year-old Pine Bluff gelding ran a well-beaten second to Mulahen here in an allowance race on July 31. Mulahen is one of three horses entered in the New York Turf Writers Cup for trainer Katherine Neilson. He is coupled in the wagering with Najim.

"That was a pretty good horse that beat Hotspur last time," said Sheppard, who will be trying for his 12th victory in the New York Turf Writers Cup. "We might have a little change of tactic here, but for the most part, we will have to be in the race from the start. Hotspur has a lot of stamina and is a very good jumper, but he does not have great acceleration. But if he is into the race early, he will keep on going, which is why I think the extra distance helps us, as does the size of the field and the weight."

Tom Foley has the mount on Hotspur, who will carry 140 pounds.

"All of the races in the fall are weight-for-age, so we have to take advantage of the weights while we can," Sheppard said. "His race on Thursday will determine if he belongs with these horses and where we go this fall."

The field for the 62nd running of the NSA grade I, New York Turf Writers' Cup:
1.--Hotspur/Jonathan Sheppard/Tom Foley/140
2.--Golden Marvel (FR)/Doug Fout/Robert Massey/142
3.--Feeling So Pretty/Katherine Neilson/Michael Traurig/139
4.--Il Capitano (GB)/Doug Fout/Robert Walsh/158
5.--Trebizond (IRE)/Katherine Neilson/Barry Geraghty/144
6.a--Mulahen (GB)/Katherine Neilson/Danielle Hodsdon/144
7.--Tres Touche/Ricky Hendriks/David Bentley/148
8.--Indispensable/Jack Fisher/Blair Waterman/142
9.--Flasher/James Day/Matt McCarron/142
10.--Praise the Prince (NZ)/Sanna Hendriks/Gus Brown/150
11.a--Najim/F. Bruce Miller/Chip Miller/144
12. -- Anofferucantrefuse/Thomas Voss/Cyril Murphy/154
a.- Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr. entry