Say Capp ended an added-money dry spell for the Oliver Goldsmith stable and helped give Joe Rocco his biggest payday yesterday since the 34-year-old jockey returned to riding after an injury-filled 1993 season.
Rocco seized the moment aboard the Goldsmith-owned and bred Say Capp and drove the 3-year-old colt through a narrow opening on the final turn en route to a four-length victory over Rugged Bugger in the $60,000 Humphrey S. Finney Stakes at Laurel Race Course.
However, had Say Capp passed a veterinary sales examination earlier last week, he might have won the Maryland-bred stakes in someone else's colors.
Two potential buyers, including the locally based Lakeville Stables, were negotiating to buy the horse, but each time the sale fell through because of perceived physical problems with the colt.
"He has absolutely no symptoms of unsoundness," Goldsmith said. "But he failed the vet exam both times."
The Howard County attorney, whose stable of homebreds dominated much of the stakes action locally in the 1980s, acknowledged the outfit has been in "a little dry spell lately. But now that Say Capp has won a stakes and a couple of my other horses such as [three-time winner] Redcall and Roys Call are winning, things are picking up."
Say Capp, trained by Ron Cartwright, is a son of Goldsmith's current star producer, Turn Capp, a multiple stakes winner herself who also produced a Maryland Million winner, Capp It Off, as well as other stakes horses Capp Ice and Cut Ice.
Rocco said he has had a rough Laurel summer meet, but it certainly wasn't evident yesterday.
He won three races -- a $16,500 allowance aboard Michael Cataneo's 2-year-old colt, Cumberland Gap; a $28,000 allowance with Saudi Brass, Murmur Farm's 5-year-old mare who is being pointed to the Alma North Handicap at Timonium; and the $60,000 feature with Say Capp.
Rocco was on the shelf about five months last year with a variety of ailments, but has now won two 1994 stakes in Maryland, including a division of the Harriman Stakes at Pimlico with Whiz Pass.
Overnight thunderstorms forced the Finney from the turf course to the main track, prompting six horses to be scratched from the original 13-horse field.
The stakes was the second leg of the National Best Seven, which attracted a total pool of $318,079 in its ninth week of operation. The winning numbers were 5-2-1-12-8-4-6. There were 10 seven-of-seven winners, each paying $14,949.50. There were 264 tickets with six of seven winners, each paying $271.
Cartwright will be in action at Hollywood Park today when he sends out Mea Culpa Stables' Mz. Zill Bear in the $300,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap.
The mare faces favorites Andestine and Golden Klair in the nine-furlong stakes. Mz. Zill Bear is scheduled to return to Laurel after the race and point for the Oct. 1 Maryland Million and Oct. 16 All Along Stakes.
NOTE: Mark Johnston is now one win ahead of Edgar Prado for the jockeys title going into today's final card of the Laurel summer meet. Johnston has 37 wins compared with 36 for Prado. Johnston has nine mounts today. Prado will ride seven.