LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- On Gary Capuano's final day of respite in Maryland, Barry Irwin held court yesterday outside Captain Bodgit's stall in Barn 40 at Churchill Downs.

Capuano, who trains Captain Bodgit, was to return to Louisville after a long weekend at home to supervise the colt's final major Kentucky Derby workout this morning. Irwin, president of Team Valor, the 32-person syndicate that owns the horse, has been pinch-hitting as spokesman.

"Everything's going good, except everywhere you go people tell you how your horse broke down," Irwin said. "A guy called me up and said a friend of his told him, 'I saw that Barry Irwin guy on 'Wide World of Sports', and he said the horse broke his knee and will be out six weeks.'

"We were eating dinner earlier in the week and another guy calls up and says, 'Too bad about that horse. I know you guys were high on him. Too bad he broke down.' It's unbelievable, isn't it?"

Such misunderstanding probably results from the horse's enlarged tendon in his left foreleg. How the injury happened is a mystery. But that it hasn't bothered him is evident by his record.

"He's like an old-fashioned throwback," said Irwin, who oversaw his purchase in February for $500,000. "He can take a lot of stuff. He's overcome a lot of stuff. And he was a tremendous 2-year-old without having a pedigree to be a good 2-year-old.

"What he's done so far this year, I think, is like a prelude of what's going to happen."

After successive victories in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial Stakes, Captain Bodgit will likely be co-favored Saturday with Pulpit. Since arriving two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, he has impressed observers -- ugly tendon and all.

"If they had a mutuel machine just amongst the horsemen here, this horse would be 3-5," Irwin said. "They're all scared to death of him. Just watching this horse gallop, these guys were impressed. And when he worked last week like that, that put them over the edge."

Six days ago, Captain Bodgit sizzled a half mile in 47 1/5 seconds -- the fastest of 43 half-mile works that morning. Today, he is scheduled to work another half mile.

Concerto unpushed

Concerto, the other Derby horse trained by a Marylander, John Tammaro III, had an easy day yesterday. He jogged a mile and galloped a mile around the muddy Churchill Downs track.

He'll work "an easy seven-eighths" this morning, Tammaro said. Jockey Carlos H. Marquez Jr. arrived from Maryland to work Concerto, ride a few races here during the week, and then pilot the big horse in the big race.

Plenty of change

Pacificbounty is out. Shammy Davis is in. Hello has a new jockey. And Sharp Cat is a no-go -- probably.

Trainer Walter Greenman withdrew Pacificbounty, a late-running California-bred, because of a slow-healing gash in his right front foot.

Trainer Nick Zito decided to enter Shammy Davis, third in the Jim Beam Stakes, after the horse worked six furlongs yesterday in 1 minute 16 seconds (the last eighth in 11 4/5 seconds). That gives Zito two Derby starters. The other is Jack Flash, who also worked three-eighths of a mile in 1: 16.

Chris McCarron gave up his mount on Hello because of lingering soreness from a nasty spill April 20 at Santa Anita Park.

"Chris told me if it came down to the wire he doubted he could do his best," trainer Ron McAnally said. Mike Smith replaces McCarron.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas apparently has had no success trying to talk the owners of Sharp Cat into letting her run in the Derby. She will run Friday in the Kentucky Oaks for fillies.

Also, trainer Forrest Kaelin said he might enter the lightly regarded Crimson Classic in the Derby at the last minute. The colt's best finish in a stakes was a fourth March 29 in the non-graded Rushaway at Turfway Park.

Pulpit looks ready

Other final major works yesterday: Free House (five furlongs in 1: 02) and Pulpit (five furlongs in 1: 00 2/5).

The time for Pulpit was the fastest of 23 works at that distance.

"He's such a remarkable horse," said his trainer, Frank Brothers. "He didn't need anything more than he did today. He's on his own now."

'Crown' in danger

Chief's Crown, sire of Concerto, suffered a life-threatening injury yesterday at Three Chimneys Farm near Lexington -- a fractured patella of his left hind leg. Dan Rosenberg, general manager of the farm, said the 15-year-old stallion sustained the injury in his paddock.

Screws and wire were inserted during surgery. Now, Rosenberg said, the horse's survival depends on "how good a patient he is."

As a 3-year-old, Chief's Crown finished third in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Preakness and third in Belmont -- all as the favorite. Only two other horses (Correlation and My Dad George) failed to win a Triple Crown race as the favorite each time.

Kentucky Derby

What: 123rd Kentucky Derby, first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

When: Saturday; post time 5: 32 p.m.

Distance: 1 1/4 miles

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Other Triple Crown races: Preakness, May 17, Pimlico Race Course; Belmont Stakes, June 7, Belmont Park.

Probable field

Horse ............ Trainer .... Jockey ...... Odds

Pulpit ........... Brothers ... Sellers ..... 5-2

Captain Bodgit ... Capuano .... Solis ....... 3-1

Silver Charm ..... Baffert .... Stevens ..... 5-1

Concerto ......... Tammaro .... Marquez ..... 6-1

Free House ....... Gonzalez ... Flores ...... 6-1

Crypto Star ...... Catalano ... Day ......... 8-1

Hello ............ McAnally ... Smith ...... 12-1

Phantom On Tour .. Whiting .... Bailey ..... 12-1

Jack Flash ....... Zito ....... Perret ..... 20-1

Celtic Warrior ... Hutt ....... Torres ..... 30-1

Shammy Davis ..... Zito ....... Martinez ... 30-1

Also possible

Sharp Cat ........ Lukas ...... Nakatani ... 10-1

Crimson Classic .. Kaelin ..... Undecided .. 30-1

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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