Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Making the Grade, which will run through the 2021 Triple Crown races, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at Capo Kane, winner of the $145,500 Jerome Stakes on Jan. 1 at Aqueduct.
While the Jerome Stakes has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner since it was moved to January in 2013, this race has served as a springboard to several talented prospects in recent years, including Vyjack, Firenze Fire, and Mind Control. Capo Kane won the one-mile dirt race Jan. 1, so let’s evaluate his chances to make an impact on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Ability: The speed figures for Capo Kane’s Jerome Stakes win largely came back uninspiring. He earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure, an 84 Beyer Speed Figure, a 99 TimeForm US rating, and an 87 BrisNet speed rating. Those are not the type of speed figures that ordinarily would send you rushing to pluck down a significant Derby future wager.
While speed figures are one of the best indicators of talent that handicappers and racing fans have at our disposal, there are many additional factors to consider when analyzing a Derby hopeful.
Visually, I thought Capo Kane was pretty impressive in the Jerome. In only his third start, he took command early when it looked like none of the other four horses wanted the lead and set the pace through a half-mile in :47.83. He seemed to relax nicely and had plenty left when a confident Dylan Davis took a look over his shoulder near the top of the stretch.
Despite drifting out in the stretch, Capo Kane pulled away to win by 6 ¼ lengths in the one-turn mile race.
Prior to the Jerome, Capo Kane rallied from off the pace to open a clear lead in his career debut, on Oct.28 at Parx Racing, but tired late going seven-eighths of a mile and faded to second over a wet-fast track. He stretched out to two turns for a one-mile and 70-yard maiden race Nov. 28 at Parx and led from start to finish in a 4 ½-length romp. That race earned a career-top 91 Equibase Speed Figure.
In that win, Capo Kane drifted out entering the stretch with runner-up Brett’s World approaching but otherwise showed several promising traits. He relaxed on the lead in a two-turn race, listened to the cues of his rider, and saved plenty of fuel for the stretch run. He leveled off nicely once he was straightened out in early stretch and put away his challenger, who was 8 ¼ lengths clear of the third-place finisher.
I like the responsiveness and tenacity he’s shown despite being pretty green, and that might mean he has significant room for growth with only three races under his belt. There is no doubt this $26,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale needs to improve and run faster than he has, but I’m cautiously optimistic based on what I’ve seen that he will continue to progress.
Trainer Harold Wyner said Capo Kane will make his next start in the $250,000 Withers Stakes Feb. 6 at Aqueduct.
“I was talking with the owners [the morning after the Jerome] and that's the step we're going to push him to,” Wyner said. “I ran him two turns at Parx going a mile and 70 in his maiden win and he did it so easy. The further he goes the better.”
Will Capo Kane be able to take a big enough jump to join the ranks of the elite 3-year-olds on the Derby trail in 2021? He admittedly will need to improve significantly, but I believe in him enough to buy stock at this point at his 75-1 odds according to our most recent Derby Futures blog.
Running style: While Capo Kane led from start to finish in each of his wins, he did not seem overly keen in either race and relaxed nicely on the front. In his debut, he showed he could rally from off the pace when he took the lead before fading on a wet track. I view him as a 3-year-old with tactical speed who should be comfortable racing on the lead of tucking in behind a stronger pace. He needs to prove he can win from off the pace, but nothing I’ve seen makes me doubt he’s capable of doing so.
Connections: Bing Cherry Racing and Leonard Liberto both have raced multiple horses that have earned six figures on the racetrack and won stakes, but according to Equibase stats neither of Capo Kane’s co-owners has yet to win a graded stakes either alone or in partnership.
Trainer Harold Wyner earned his first stakes win with Capo Kane. He previously purchased and trained Ny Traffic before he was sold privately for his 3-year-old campaign and transferred to Saffie Joseph Jr., for whom he ran second in the 2020 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby and TVG.com Haskell Stakes.
Wyner was a steeplechase rider in England for trainer Michael Dickinson and moved to the U.S. with Dickinson in 1987. He worked as a groom and exercise rider for Dickinson and also rode in 462 races from 1990 to 1992 with 14 victories according to Equibase. Wyner also served as an assistant to New York-based trainer Mark Hennig.
Parx-based Jeremy Laprida rode Capo Kane for each of his first two starts. Dylan Davis, son of jockey-trainer Robbie Davis and brother of professional riders Katie Davis and Jackie Davis, picked up the mount for the Jerome.
Pedigree: Capo Kane is from the 11th crop of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, the champion 2-year-old male of 2006. Street Sense has sired 80 stakes winners and 35 graded stakes winners from 995 starters through Jan. 12.
Four-time Grade 1 winner McKinzie is probably Street Sense’s best runner to date, but he’s proved a versatile dual-hemisphere sire with elite runners on grass and dirt as well as sprinting and going longer distances.
Capo Kane is out of Twirl Me, by Hard Spun, who ran second to Street Sense in the 2007 Derby. Later that year, he finished third in the Preakness, second in the Haskell Invitational, and second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Twirl Me was unplaced in one start and is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to stakes winner Mambo Man.
This family is anchored by Capo Kane’s third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Tuzla, by Panoramic. Tuzla won the Grade 1 Ramona Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1999, and later that year finished second by a neck against males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Tuzla won eight stakes, including five graded stakes, before starting her second career as a broodmare. She produced group stakes winner Toscanini, who was Group 1-placed as a juvenile, as well as the multiple graded-stakes-placed horse Tybalt.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Wyner test Capo Kane on the grass should he fizzle out on the Triple Crown trail, but from a pedigree perspective I think there is a high likelihood this improving colt can continue to excel as the distances get longer.
“I try and get on all of my horses two or three times a week, but I get on [Capo Kane] about four times a week,” Wyner said. “When he was a 2-year-old he was very playful and laid back to gallop. When he came off his maiden victory he got to be very tough to gallop and he wanted to find his own speed to gallop in the morning. When a horse came up alongside him, it was game on for him. He just wanted to be in front of that horse.
“I usually take a long hold and let him dictate to me how he wants to do it. In the morning, the further we gallop the stronger he gets. He just doesn't know when to stop. He wants to run.”
There is no doubt Capo Kane needs to take a big step forward from a speed-figure perspective to be a threat to the best of this division, but he’s headed in the right direction and I think we’ll see an even-better Capo Kane in the Withers.