Whether you have two legs or four, it’s always a good idea to play to your strengths. Sometimes it takes longer to figure out those strengths for some than others. On the Belmont Stakes undercard, I’m expecting a big performance from a young colt who most assuredly will be playing to his strengths when Capo Bastone lines up against a loaded field in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens.
From the very beginning, Capo Bastone demonstrated that he was born to finish fast in one-turn sprints. Hopelessly boxed-in while competing in his career debut back in August, the son of Street Boss finally found room in the stretch, and came flying. Despite only winning by a neck that day, the excellence of the performance was not lost on the crowd at Del Mar. Fast forward a bit, and you can see a string of two-turn races for both original trainer, John Sadler, and new trainer, Todd Pletcher, on the colt’s past performances. The results of these efforts were generally good, including a third place finish in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but not quite up to the promise he hinted to in that maiden race. After a poor effort in Turfway Park’s Spiral Stakes, Pletcher decided to cut the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ owned runner back in distance. The improvement was immediate.
In the one-turn Derby Trial, Capo Bastone didn’t exactly come out of the gate running. Lunging at the start, he fell way behind in the field of nine. Halfway through the race, it appeared he was hopelessly out of the one mile test. That’s when the horse’s talent began to kick in. Despite having a pair of small momentum hindrances in the stretch, Capo Bastone came flying late to fall just a few jumps short of getting to his talented stablemate, Forty Tales at the wire. It was a telling performance that validated his Hall of Fame conditioner’s choice to shorten him back up in distance.
“Capo Bastone got back a little further than probably is ideal in his last start, but I think he has probably found his niche in one-turn races coming from a little bit off the pace, Pletcher said. “We tried to stretch him out a little bit, and he ran some competitive races.”
Armed with this new knowledge, and with dreams of the Derby trail in the rearview mirror, Capo Bastone can now do what he was meant to do. Much like his last-to-first, grade 1 winning sprint sire did several years ago, Capo Bastone is poised to show the world his best. Despite the big talent coming out of almost every starting stall in the Woody Stephens, the race sets up beautifully for a horse who can pick up the pieces late. With blazing early speed like Let Em Shine and Zee Bros, and several other speed types in the field, the fur should absolutely fly in the seven furlong test.
Brutal early fractions almost a certainty, you can bet that the late runners will be flying down the lane. There are a few strong candidates to be coming on strong late, but Capo Bastone is the one I believe to be the best of the bunch ... for this is what he was born to do.