Capp It Off has been a brilliantly fast and admirably consistent racehorse throughout her career, but owner Oliver Goldsmith has one regret about his 5-year-old mare: "She's never had Lady Luck in her corner."
This bad luck will certainly compromise her chances in the $100,000 State of Maryland Distaff Handicap, one of the nine events that comprise the Maryland Million at Pimlico Saturday. Capp It Off won it last year, and would have figured to dominate the six-furlong event again had it not been for a misfortune that befell her in the spring.
Capp It Off was galloping at Laurel one morning when she suddenly swerved to the right and the exercise boy couldn't control her. The mare tumbled over the fence and wound up in a ditch. She could easily have broken her neck in the accident, but instead she pulled a suspensory -- which knocked her out of competition for months.
"Every trainer and vet I spoke to said she couldn't make the Maryland Million," Goldsmith said. "She was confined to total stall rest for three months. She handled the confinement superbly -- she's an amazingly intelligent horse. In July, we still couldn't put any pressure on her leg, so we took her to a farm on the Eastern Shore and swam her."
Capp It Off started getting fit with exercise in the water, then returned to training in August on Goldsmith's farm in Glenwood, Md. There wasn't enough time for her to have a prep race for the Million, so she will go into Saturday's stake with five workouts as her preparation. Is it enough? Goldsmith conceded, "It's not enough to put her on the top of her game."
At the top of her game, Capp It Off would have been virtually unbeatable. She has displayed exceptional talent ever since the first day of her career.
She was bred to be fast. Her dam, Turn Capp, was a speedball who campaigned with consistent success in Maryland for several years and Goldsmith mated her to Double Zeus, also a crack sprinter. Goldsmith had no illusions about winning the Kentucky Derby with this pedigree, but he figured he could get a terrific sprinter.
Capp It Off won her first start by 9 1/2 lengths at Laurel in November 1984, but hurt herself thereafter. "A vet said she had a cracked pelvis," Goldsmith said, "but it turned out that she had pulled a suspensory, and we lost a year with her because of the misdiagnosis."
So it was not until 1986 that Capp It Off got the chance to show she is one of the best filly sprinters in the East. While the Maryland Million victory was her most lucrative, her best performance came two months later when she went to Aqueduct and won the Key Bridge Stakes by seven lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09 3/5 as she demolished good sprinters like Gene's Lady and Clemanna's Rose.
In a 17-race career, she has won nine times and finished out of the money only twice (once on a sloppy track, once at seven furlongs, which is too far for her). And for sheer quickness, there aren't many fillies in her league. Capp It Off has had the lead after a quarter mile in 12 of her last 13 starts.
Unfortunately, the money-making opportunities for such an animal are rather limited, and there is only one race in America where Capp It Off could run for a $100,000 purse against a relatively soft field: the Maryland Million.
That's why Goldsmith pushed her to get ready for this particular race, and so handicappers will be faced with a difficult problem at Pimlico on Saturday. Since Capp It Off must concede a great deal of weight and a significant edge in conditioning to her rivals, is her sheer talent going to be enough for her to win?