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Trainer Capuano Chases First Stakes Win in $100,000 Fire Plug
Swayin to and Fro Goes for Third Straight in $100,000 What a Summer
LAUREL, MD – A week after getting his first wins as a trainer out of the way, Phillip Capuano will go after his first stakes win with Mopo Racing’s Alwaysinahurry in the $100,000 Fire Plug Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 6 ½-furlong Fire Plug for 4-year-olds and up and $100,000 What a Summer for fillies and mares 4 and older going six furlongs are among six stakes, including four sprints, worth $550,000 in purses on a nine-race Winter Sprintfest program.
First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Capuano, 29, worked as an assistant running his father Gary’s string at Delaware Park in recent summers. Last year he began working for his uncle Dale in preparation for him taking over the stable when Dale Capuano retired effective Jan. 1 following a 41-year training career.
“Not just all of Dale’s owners that stayed on with me, I have to thank all of my father’s owners for the last couple years that gave me a shot and the confidence of being at Delaware and managing all those nice horses,” Phillip Capuano said. “It really put me in a position to move forward with this opportunity. Without all of them together, I wouldn’t be here right now.
“The last couple of years at Delaware, Gary had given me full autonomy. [He said,] ‘Train ‘em, do what you do, I’m not going to interfere. You run it the way you want to run it.,’” he added. “So, that really helped set me up for this.”
A 5-year-old Great Notion gelding, Alwaysinahurry is already a multiple stakes winner having broken through in the 2021 Concern at Laurel. He has also placed in three other stakes and enters the Fire Plug on a two-race win streak including the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial against fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses in November.
Alwaysinahurry is the first stakes starter for Capuano, who earned his first win with his sixth starter, Thunderturtle, Jan. 13 at Charles Town. The next day he registered his first two-win day with Imagine a Cure and Vance Scholars at Laurel. He is 3-for-11 with one second entering Laurel’s return of live racing Friday.
“Instead of having somebody to fall back on if I need it, the buck starts and stops with me. There’s nobody else for me to fall back on, even though I could always turn to my father and Dale if I had any questions or concerns. But, ultimately, it’s on my shoulders now,” Capuano said.
“If I started worrying about it right away, like picking up where Dale left off, I think that just would have been disastrous. Ultimately what I hope to do is kind of encompass what I learned from Gary and what I learned from Dale and just kind of make it my own,” he added. “If I try to make it just one or the other, I don’t think it’ll work the way I want it to.”
Capuano nominated Alwaysinahurry to both the Fire Plug and Saturday’s $75,000 Jennings for Maryland-bred/sired horses going one mile, but opted for open company to keep him sprinting. Mopo’s ownership group is a partnership headed by married retired TV personalities Maury Povich and Connie Chung.
Dale Capuano, 60, won 3,662 races during his career, is the all-time leading trainer in Maryland Million history and topped the $1 million mark in season earnings 34 times including the last 30 in a row. Gary Capuano, 59, remains based at Laurel and is perhaps best known as the trainer of Captain Bodgit, winner of the 1996 Laurel Futurity (G3) and 1997 Florida Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G2) that ran second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and third in the Preakness (G1).
“For me the toughest part right now is learning the individual horses, how I can train them. Can I train them the way I want to train them and have it work. There’s still a little doubt in that regard, still trying to figure out what I can and can’t do with these horses,” Capuano said. “I talked to my father and Dale about it, it’s like I just claimed 35 horses.
“It’s just figuring it out. With my father’s horses, I can train them the way I can because I know the horses. They’ve been there for six or seven years. Stability is Gary’s biggest proponent and the help and the horses. The horses he has, they haven’t changed,” he added. “It’s a learning curve but I’m really appreciative for all the owners to stick with me and to not make me feel pressured to doing things a certain way. They don’t want me to be exactly like Dale but it’s a transition process and they’re aware of it.”
Alwaysinahurry drew Post 3 in a field of 10 for the Fire Plug that includes 2021 Maryland Million Sprint winner Air Token; Al Loves Josie, most recently third in the seven-furlong City of Laurel Nov. 26; 2022 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash winner Beren; 2022 Challedon and Dave’s Friend winner Factor It In; Five Dreams, second in the six-furlong Blitzen Jan. 4 at Parx; 2020 Maryland Million Sprint winner Karan’s Notion; Pirate Rick, riding a three-race win streak; Savoy, third in the Dave’s Friend; two-time stakes winner and Grade 3-placed Wendell Fong; and multiple stakes-placed Yodel E.A. Who.
Fire Plug was a stakes winner every year from age 3 to 7. The popular gelding won or placed in 49 of 54 career starts with half his 28 victories coming in stakes including the J. Edgar Hoover, Maryland Breeders’ Cup and Roman handicaps. Twice graded-stakes placed including the 1991 General George (G2), he was retired later that year at the age of 8 with $705,175 in purse earnings.
Swayin to and Fro Goes for Three Straight in $100,000 What a Summer
Baxter Racing Stable’s claimer-turned-multiple stakes winner Swayin to and Fro, riding a two-race win streak, looks to make it three stakes in a row in Saturday’s $100,000 What a Summer at Laurel Park.
Swayin to and Fro had seven wins, one third and $289,000 in purse earnings from 11 races since being claimed by trainer Mario Serey Jr. for $16,000 out of a maiden victory last May at historic Pimlico Race Course, her third career start.
The 4-year-old South Carolina-bred became a stakes winner in the restricted Shine Again against older horses last fall at Pimlico. Her two most recent efforts have been her best, winning the seven-furlong Safely Kept by 3 ½ lengths Nov. 26 and the 6 ½-furlong Willa On the Move, also over her elders, by 6 ½ lengths Dec. 30.
“I think she’s ready to go,” Serey said. “Every time when I work and gallop the filly she makes me happier because she’s a really good talent. She’s grown up now. I think she’s going to be very tough again.”
Including her maiden triumph, Swayin to and Fro put together a five consecutive wins last year before finishing fifth in the Seeking the Pearl at Colonial Downs in her stakes debut, one race before the Shine Again. She was off the board in two of her subsequent three starts prior to her current streak.
“She was a baby in the beginning but now she has grown up, so I put a little more pressure on her. Every time I put a little more pressure on her, she shows me more talent,” Serey said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she won easy again. I think she [was] the best 3-year-old filly in Maryland. She’s going to be really, really tough.”
Regular rider Grant Whitacre will be aboard from Post 4.
The competition for Swayin to and Fro includes fellow multiple stakes winners Disco Ebo, Fille d’Esprit and Dontletsweetfoolya. Cash is King and LC Racing’s Disco Ebo, 4, won the 2021 Shamrock Rose at Penn National and 2022 Youngstown Oaks at Mahoning Valley and exits a third in Aqueduct’s Dec. 10 Garland of Roses.
C J I Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit is a 7-year-old Great Notion mare that had a two-stakes win streak snapped when fourth as the favorite behind Swayin to and Fro in the Willa On the Move. Fille d’Esprit owns 13 career wins, 11 at Laurel, and five stakes wins including a victory over Swayin to and Fro in the Seeking the Pearl.
Five Hellions Farm’s Dontletsweetfoolya set the pace in the Willa On the Move but settled for second in her second start since returning to the main track after winning one of six tries on the turf. The 6-year-old Stay Thirsty mare won an open six-furlong allowance Oct. 30 at Laurel, where six of her eight lifetime wins have come including the 2020 Primonetta and Willa On the Move to cap a five-race win streak.
Completing the field are a pair of New York shippers in Lady Sheila Stable’s Fouette, third in the Willa On the Move, and Highland Yard’s Snicket, fourth in the Garland of Roses and second in the Union Avenue against New York-breds last year.
The What a Summer honors the Maryland-bred mare that was named the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter and Maryland’s Horse of the Year in 1977. The Maryland-bred Hall of Famer won 18 of 31 career starts including the Fall Highweight Handicap (G2) and Silver Spoon Handicap twice, Maskette Handicap (G2) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2).