Justwaveandsmile, Vance Scholars Latest Stakes Winners for Owner, Trainer
LAUREL, Md. – In an association that has touched parts of five decades, Steve Newby and Dale Capuano are still going strong – maybe stronger than ever.
On back-to-back weekends at Laurel Park, the owner and trainer found themselves in the winner’s circle after 5-year-old gelding Justwaveandsmile won the $75,000 Ben’s Cat July 30 and 3-year-old gelding Vance Scholars made a triumphant season debut in the $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby Aug. 6.
“I’ve never won two stakes in a row and probably never will again, but it was quite a run,” Newby said. “I hope to continue it. We’ll see.”
Newby, a 75-year-old retired stockbroker, leaves that in the capable hands of Capuano. Their relationship goes back to when Newby first got in the game as part of partnerships on horses trained by Capuano in the late 1980s and early 1990s before deciding to strike out on his own.
“He got into the business with me,” Capuano, who turns 60 in November, said. “I’m the only trainer he’s had so far.”
Their success came almost immediately. After deciding that claiming horses was not a profitable business model, Newby asked Capuano to attend Keeneland’s September 1996 yearling sale and the trainer came back with four horses, including an $80,000 son of Strawberry Road that would be named Just Call Me Carl.
Just Call Me Carl was named for Carl Rowan, the late syndicated columnist and diplomat Newby first met in 1990 when he donated $50,000 – first prize for winning a USA Today-sponsored national stock-picking contest – to Rowan’s Project Excellence, which provided scholarships to minority students in the Washington, D.C. area.
Newby also pledged Just Call Me Carl’s earnings to Project Excellence. Just Call Me Carl banked $525,708 in five seasons of racing, winning 12 of 25 starts, six of them in stakes, including the 1998 Dancing Count at Laurel and 2000 and 2001 Ben Cohen, Basil Hall and Chesapeake at historic Pimlico Race Course. That same year, Just Call Me Carl also ran second in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G1), Laurel Dash (G3) and Philadelphia Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3).
“We’ve been together a long time and we’ve had some good ones. Just Call Me Carl was certainly one of those,” Capuano said. “We had some success early on. Some years were lean, but that’s how it goes. He just stays with it and here we are today.
“Steve’s a great guy,” he added. “They don’t come along any better than he is, excellent to deal with, an all-around good guy.”
Just Call Me Carl shares a similar story to that of Vance Scholars, a horse Newby named for a scholarship program he founded in 2018 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington D.C. to honor 19-time Emmy Award-winning newscaster Jim Vance, who died in 2017 at the age of 75 after a brief battle with cancer. The program, which Newby funds partly with money earned by the horse, graduated its first class of ‘Vance Scholars’ in May.
“A lot of people that own horses, it’s just in their blood or in their tradition or in their family. But for an outsider like me, it’s mostly just for the fun of it and being able to have the financial ability to support it even if we don’t have a bunch of winners,” Newby said. “Anybody that’s in horse racing knows there’s going to be periods where you don’t have winners. Horse racing isn’t life or death for me but, because I’m in a good position in life, I’m able to support these ventures as I would think many of the horse owners are like me that are very active in their callings, I’m sure.”
Newby’s first interest in horse racing came during his undergraduate days at the University of Maryland in the 1960s, when he was working with computers and wondering if computer analysis might be the key to picking winners. After some trial and error, particularly at Rosecroft Raceway, he shifted his focus to picking stocks.
He worked for a few firms before founding his own in 1990 in Rockville, Md. and has been retired as an active stockbroker since the early 2000s, mostly trading for himself.
“He used to handicap horses when he was going to college, so he knew about that part of it, the handicapping and racing part,” Capuano said. “Owning them and the horses themselves he didn’t know a whole lot about, but he’s a very intelligent guy and he learned quickly. He’s been great to work with, that’s for sure.
“Steve has five or six with me now,” he added. “He usually keeps four or five, depending, but that’s generally where his numbers run. Hopefully it’ll be a good year.”
According to Equibase statistics, Capuano has started 11 horses for Newby in 2022 with four wins, one second and $185,914 in purse earnings, bringing the owner’s career totals to 88 wins and $2.69 million in purses earned from 370 starters since 2000, according to Equibase statistics.
Other top horses Capuano campaigned for Newby include stakes winners Grace Bay, President Butler and Come Sundown and stakes-placed Zorally, Next Big Nothing, I’m Mr. Blue and Scarlet Tango, the latter favored over Xtra Heat when she ran second to the future Hall of Famer in the 2000 Laura Gal at Laurel.
“In a trainer, I just looked for somebody that I felt was honest. I wasn’t expecting somebody to make me a fortune in the horse racing business because when I started in the 80s and 90s it was very difficult,” Newby said. “Now it’s a little bit easier because of the incentives that the breeding programs are giving, so that’s been helpful in the last four or five years especially. Basically, [I value] honesty in a trainer and being straightforward. If he’s going to raise any of his prices, he tells me in advance. He’s a straight shooter, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Capuano is also an excellent horseman and astute judge of talent, with more than 3,600 career wins to his credit. He picked out Vance Scholars for $22,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling sale in Timonium, Md. in 2020, two years after purchasing Justwaveandsmile for $55,000 from the same sale. Together, they have won 11 of 23 starts and nearly $300,000 in purses.
“It’s amazing. Dale buys these horses for 20, 30, 40,000 dollars and some of them have turned out pretty good,” Newby said. “You have some clunkers, absolutely, but with Vance Scholars, it wasn’t a huge amount of money and to take home $60,000 in one race, that’s pretty cool.”
Vance Scholars won the Bald Eagle Derby for fellow sophomores, rained off the turf to the main track, after not having raced in 259 days. It was his second straight win and first in a stakes.
“He came back really good,” Capuano said. “I knew he was fit and ready. You’ve got to get them started somewhere and for a horse like him, a 3-year-old two-other-than to have to run against older class horses of horses is asking a lot. No matter what you do it’s not going to be an easy spot. He ran well and he can go a distance of ground, so that’s a plus. I’ll try to keep him going long because he hasn’t lost going long yet. His only defeats were going short. We’ll just look around and see.”
Justwaveandsmile, meanwhile, is under consideration for the $200,000 Parx Dash sprinting five furlongs on the turf Aug. 23. The Ben’s Cat for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up going 5 ½ furlongs, was Justwaveandsmile’s stakes debut and his sixth consecutive win on grass.
“He’s doing well. I’m thinking about running him in the Parx Dash. That’s my thought right now, but we’ll play it by ear,” Capuano said. “Getting him on the turf has really helped. He had a lot of little issues when he was young. He’s 5 and he’s only run 17 times. We stayed patient with him and we were able to give him enough time and he’s paying us back now, so it’s all good.”
Story by Phil Janack
Photo: Steve Newby (left) in the winner’s circle with Vance Scholars. (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)