Dale Capuano will conclude his 41-year training career with the ending of the year, transferring his 35-horse stable over to his nephew Phillip Capuano.
“I've been thinking about it the last couple of years. This business, for me anyway, it's all I do,” Capuano, one of the leading trainers in Maryland history, said. “I've reached a point in my life where I want to do some other things besides get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and work six or seven days a week. It's time for me to do something else and enjoy myself.”
The 60-year-old Capuano is 22nd on the all-time wins list among trainers with 3,661 and his horses have earned more than $68 million in purses. He has topped the $1-million mark in season earnings 34 times, including each of the past 30 years.
Over his distinguished career Capuano led all Maryland trainers in annual wins eight times (1991, 1997-98, 2001-04) and won a total of 31 meet championships at its major tracks, Laurel and Pimlico Race Course.
His first winner was Who's Lucky at old Bowie Race Course Feb. 21, 1981.
An eight-time graded-stakes winner, Capuano extended his record as the most successful trainer in Maryland Million history to 15 wins when 2-year-old Johnyz From Albany captured the Nursery S. Oct. 22.
“I don't look at it like I've really done all that much. I've never won a Grade I, I never won a Classic-type race. Those things never happened,” he said. “We've had some pretty nice horses. Racing's been good to me and I've had a good career where I've been able to make a decent living doing it and doing what I really love to do. Those are all great things.”
Capuano was born into the family business, a son of late longtime owner and breeder Phil Capuano. He and his brother, Gary, were raised on the family's farm in the Prince George's County town of Upper Marlboro and began attending races at an early age.
Among his best horses have been 1990 GIII Trenton H. winner Wind Splitter, a horse he considers among the best he's ever trained, who ran 11th in the 1989 GI Kentucky Derby. Heros Reward was a two-time Maryland Horse of the Year who won or placed in 13 stakes, captured three graded-stakes and earned $1.3 million from 2005 to 2013. Others include Grade II winners Prized Stamp and Miss Mischief and multiple stakes winners Just Call Me Carl and In the Curl, the latter finishing in the money in 64 of 85 lifetime starts with nearly $750,000 in purse earnings.
“What's really kept me going is I've had great clients pretty much my entire career. That makes life so much easier,” Capuano said. “People like Lou Ulman, we've been together over 30 years. Steve Newby, Neil Glasser. Unfortunately some of them have passed away that were with me in the beginning–Harvey Linden was really helpful for me in the beginning of my career.
“There's so many I could name. Now we have Mopo Racing with Maury Povich, just great, great people to work with. Super C Racing. I don't want to leave anybody out,” he added. “It just makes my job so much easier when you have great people to work with.”
Phillip Capuano, son of trainer Gary Capuano, is more than ready to take over the stable, his uncle said.
“He's been with me in the barn every day since Delaware closed, and he's worked for me before, so he kind of knows my routine and he knows the horses,” Capuano said. “He always handles the horses for Gary at Delaware every year. When we shipped to Delaware he always took care of everything there for us. We usually kept a couple horses with him up there each season, so he knows my owners and he knows the horses. I think he'll just step right in on Jan. 1. Like I told my employees, it'll just be a different person behind the desk. Phil's a great kid. He's a hard-worker, honest, and he'll do just fine. I have no doubts about that.”
As for his retirement plans, Capuano said, “Just rest a little bit, because I haven't had a vacation in about five years. I'll probably take some trips around different places and start to live a little bit. Get myself back in the gym and get back in shape like I need to be, and work on myself a little bit.”