HALLANDALE, Fla. — In what could be just another chapter in an extended rivalry, Captain Bodgit will try to sidetrack the heavily favored Pulpit today in the $500,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Pulpit, winner of all three of his races, all of them in the last two months, is 3-5 on the morning line and Captain Bodgit is 5-1, but Barry Irwin says that Pulpit can be beaten. Most of the other horsemen in today's eight-horse field have suggested that against Pulpit, second money of $95,000 wouldn't be shabby.
"Somewhere along the line, Pulpit's going to be vulnerable," said Irwin, who heads the Team Valor syndicate that races Captain Bodgit. "I don't care as much about [today] as I do about winning the Kentucky Derby. But I think Pulpit's going to get beat sometime, someplace. In trying to do too much in too short a period of time, he doesn't have the foundation that goes into making a mile-and-a-quarter horse."
The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby is the first major prep for the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3. Five horses that couldn't beat Pulpit in the Fountain of Youth Stakes three weeks ago, among them Captain Bodgit, are back for more. The other holdovers are Acceptable, Jack Flash, Wrightwood and Frisk Me Now, who'll be joined by newcomers Michelle'sallhands and Hurry The Dance.
Third in the Fountain of Youth, Captain Bodgit is expected to follow Pulpit right on through the Kentucky Derby. Their trainers already have penciled in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 12 as their final Derby tuneups.
Owned by Phyllis Susini when he was a 2-year-old, Captain Bodgit ran third in his debut, then reeled off a five-race winning streak climaxed by a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Laurel Futurity in November.
Susini, who reportedly paid $50,000 for Captain Bodgit, started getting six-figure offers for the colt and finally decided to sell before he raced as a 3-year-old.
Associates for Michael Tabor, who bought Thunder Gulch privately before he won the 1995 Kentucky Derby, were interested, along with Team Valor. Tabor's people, taking a preliminary look at Captain Bodgit, were expected to return with equipment that would monitor the horse's heart and lungs, but Susini grabbed the cash that was on the table, the $500,000 offer from the Pasadena-based Team Valor.
"We liked the way he stretched out from six to nine furlongs and ran the last eighth of a mile in 12 seconds," Irwin said.
After Team Valor bought Captain Bodgit, the group kept the colt with Gary Capuano, a 34-year-old Maryland trainer. Before the Fountain of Youth, Captain Bodgit made his debut for Team Valor in January and was third in the Holy Bull Stakes.
Alex Solis, who rode Captain Bodgit for the first time in the Fountain of Youth, will again be in from California to take the mount today.
"I just hope he's not 10 lengths back at the start," Capuano said. "This horse can be nasty in the gate, and [the assistant starter] grabbed his ears and nose before the Fountain of Youth and manhandled him in the gate. He was 20 lengths back, then made his late run and got beat by only two."
Pulpit, who had never run in a stake, carried 112 pounds in the Fountain of Youth, five less than Captain Bodgit. Today they're at equal weights, 122 pounds, which means that Pulpit picks up 10 pounds.
"That's a big swing in weights for my horse," Pulpit's trainer, Frank Brothers, said. "Pulpit ought to have the size to handle it, but when a horse picks up 10 pounds, there's always a concern."
Horse Racing Notes
Wayne Lukas, who trains Florida Derby starter Wrightwood, said that he plans to run Sharp Cat, the Santa Anita Oaks winner, in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5. "Rather than going out of town, she'll be running out of her own barn, over a track she likes," Lukas said. "Guys who fool around with comparative times tell me that Sharp Cat ran much faster than Jewel Princess [who won the Santa Margarita Handicap half an hour later]. They tell me that Sharp Cat would have been nine lengths in front after the first mile." . . . The rest of the Florida Derby card includes the 1997 debut of Preakness winner Louis Quatorze in the Creme Fraiche Handicap, and the seven-furlong Swale Stakes for 3-year-olds, which features the first start this year for The Silver Move, last year's Remsen Stakes winner.