08/24/2007 12:00AM

Capote, 1986 juvenile champ, dies at 23


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Capote, the champion juvenile and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner of 1986 who sired 1996 champion juvenile Boston Harbor, died Friday at age 23.

Capote, who was found to have neurological problems in 2003, was euthanized at Three Chimneys farm in Midway, Ky., after his condition deteriorated. The Seattle Slew horse was buried at the farm, where he stood for 16 years.

An $800,000 Keeneland July yearling, Capote raced for three owners who helped make trainer D. Wayne Lukas's stable a juggernaut in the 1980s: Eugene Klein, L.R. French, and B.A. Beal. Klein died in 1990, but French and Beal were still part-owners of Capote when the stallion died.

Capote had an inauspicious debut, finishing 11th in maiden special weight company at Del Mar. He made good a month later with an 11-length victory, again in maiden special weight company, at Santa Anita and didn't look back the rest of the season. In his first stakes attempt, Capote beat rising star Gulch to take the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes. He then stepped right into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile as the 2.40-1 favorite and beat a field that included Gulch, eventual Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba, and eventual Belmont winner Bet Twice.

He never regained that stellar form at 3. Capote finished fourth in both the Gotham and the Wood Memorial en route to the Derby, but was eased at Churchill Downs, and he never won again, despite dropping into allowance company for the final three starts of his career.

He fared better at stud. He started his breeding career at Calumet Farm in 1988, unfortunately arriving just before the farm's collapse into bankruptcy in 1991. Capote's first four crops came from his days at Calumet, and they got him off to a good start. His first crop alone featured such runners as Grade 1 winner Agincourt; Grade 2 winners Looie Capote, La Spia, and She's Tops; and South African Horse of the Year Surfing Home.

But the Calumet bankruptcy prompted his owners to relocate him. On Dec. 23, 1991, after a courtroom hearing, Calumet's 50 percent stake in the Seattle Slew horse was sold to Beal and French, and the following day the horse arrived at Three Chimneys. French and Beal later sold a majority interest in Capote to Morven Stud owner John Kluge.

At Three Chimneys, Capote got his best runner, Boston Harbor. Boston Harbor won the 1996 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and earned championship honors that season; he also set a juvenile earnings record, now broken, of $1,928,605.

Capote's other Grade 1 winners are Capdiva, Capote Belle, and Matty G. He also is the sire of Irish juvenile champion Basim.

Three Chimneys stallion manager Sandy Hatfield first worked with Capote at North Ridge Farm, where he was foaled.

"He wasn't quite as opinionated then as he became as a stallion," she recalled. "He was a nice yearling, and I always thought he was a beautiful horse. Horses that are tough often do seem to make good stallions like he did."

When Hatfield got to handle Capote again, it was after both of them left Calumet for Three Chimneys.

"He was never a sweet horse, that's for sure," she said. "He let you know he wanted things done his way."

The farm catered to his desires in some ways, like turning him out early in the morning and relocating his paddock so that horses at their regular morning exercise didn't disturb him.

"He was very good to the farm and to his owners," Hatfield said, "and we tried to do the same for him."

Capote was out of the Bald Eagle mare Too Bald. He was retired from stud in November 2003.

Shuttle stallions stuck in quarantine

Australia's breeding industry is temporarily on hold after signs of highly contagious equine influenza prompted authorities to extend quarantine for some high-profile shuttle stallions.

An outbreak of influenza, which is not usually life-threatening, recently shut down racing in Japan.

Preliminary tests of the quarantined horses so far have been negative for influenza, but more definitive test results are due back Sunday or Monday, according to the Australian Racing Board.

The extension affects 79 horses currently quarantined and will cause such shuttle stallions as Encosta de Lago, Bernardini, and Danehill Dancer to miss the Sept. 1 start of the Southern Hemisphere breeding season.

Coolmore and Darley - both major players in the Australian breeding business - could lose tens of millions in stud fees under the projected timetable.

Ocala sale's final session

One day after it posted sharp gains in gross, average, and median, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August open yearling sale entered its final session Friday with a session-leading price of $60,000 for a Spanish Steps-Kitty Comedy filly at 6 p.m. Webster Trainer Center, agent, bought the filly, who sold as Hip No. 1437 from the Perrone Sales agency's consignment.

A $185,000 Alphabet Soup colt bought by Manor Farm topped Thursday's next-to-last session. He was one of 187 yearlings sold Thursday at a strong session. The gross of $2,036,300 was up 11 percent from last year when 200 horses sold, and average price soared 19 percent, climbing from $9,189 in 2006 to $10,889. Median did even better, rising 20 percent, from $5,000 to $6,000. But the buy-back rate also increased, from 28 percent to 31 percent.