When Cinderella pays you a visit. You will always be happy with the gift she leaves behind. After the tragic loss of Ontario Princess. The Wolfe barn was very down, but not out. It was very difficult emotionally and financially to recover from her loss.
Enter the D’Angelo brothers. Sam, Joey, and Mario had been school buddies to me, and my brother John. The D’Angelo family and the Wolfe family had a common denominator. We were horse racing crazy! I remember many happy times of going to the races with Sam, Joe, and Mario. The brothers became great friends and fans of my Dad. They were looking forward to the day when they starting working full time and were finished with school. So they could take a shot in the horse racing business, as horse owners. By 1979 the brothers were ready to invest in the Sport of Kings, and buy a racehorse. They had raised $5,000 to claim a horse from the races. They were all licensed. Beautiful yellow and orange silks were designed and made. The D’Angelo brothers were ready for action.
Enter Cinderella. The D’Angelo brothers had deposited there $5,000 into a horseman's account. Sam had selected the horse that they wanted to claim. The claim slip was filled out, and the claim put in for the horse. If more then one claim goes in for a horse. Then during the running of the race a random chance draw is made. The winner of the draw owns the horse. Sam lost the draw. So the brothers were still without a horse. The second claim was put in for a horse named "Snow Fence". Again we lost the draw on Snow Fence. So again the D’Angelo brothers were still not the owners of a racehorse. They would try again. Sam had a selected a filly this time. Her name was Idle Time. She was from the Carl Chapman stable. The gate opened and disaster struck. Idle Time had pulled up soon after the start of this race. She had suffered a serious injury! There were two claims in for Idle Time. Sam D’Angelo and Frank Passero. Lucky for us, Frank Passero had won the draw. We quickly learned that Idle Time had broken her leg, and had to be euthanized. Sam D’Angelo was very thankful to still have the $5,000 in hand. There were very close to having a disaster in the horse business, and not even having the chance to enjoy one race. To the D’Angelo brothers credit they never gave up. Remember the name of this blog. "Keep Turning Left". Sam went to my dad right after this close call. Sam said to my Dad. "I hired you to be our trainer. So you can pick out the horse to claim for us". My father agreed. In the Snow Fence race. A horse named Captain Dawn was making his first start of 1979. He was a handsome big chestnut 5 year old gelding by Gray Dawn II. He was running in a 6 furlong sprint race. He finished in the middle of the pack in this race. My dad thought that he looked like an honest racehorse. He was also bred for endurance and not sprint races. He thought that he could make a useful runner in our barn, if he was sound. Most claiming horses run in cheap claiming racing because they have suffered leg injuries in the past. And they never fully recover from these injuries. So when Captain Dawn ran back in another sprint race. A claim slip was made out in the name of Sam D’Angelo. There were no other claims put in for him. He again finished in the middle of the pack. The "Captain" came into the Wolfe Racing Stable. With great fortune we lost the draw all three times. On horses Sam had selected and put claims in for. All three of these horses never raced again. Thank you Cinderella!
This wonderful horse would soon become the pride and joy of our barn. He was racing sound when he came into the barn. However he had a badly deformed right front leg. He had suffered a serious injury as a 3 year old. He had fallen in a race on the Marshall Turf course while crossing the main track. Captain Dawn had fractured the split bone in his right front leg. When this injury occurs. It is very serious. The fractured bone has to surgically removed to give the horse any chance of every racing again. Also he had arrived in a depressed condition. A lot of claiming horses are disregarded in large racing stables. There care and training can be mediocre at best. Captain Dawn would now have an overhaul in the Wolfe Stable. He would now get the care and training program that this talented and courageous racehorse deserved. The Captain as he would soon be called by everyone made his Wolfe Stable debut 10 days after we claimed him. The date was June 23rd 1979. It would be a $6,250 claiming race going 1 mile & 1/16. Jockey Paul Souter (The Squirrel) would be in the saddle for his first race in the D'Angelo colors. I was his groom for his debut. When I went over to observe him, before the race that we claimed him. He acted mild mannered and quiet. However for his debut with us. There was now a complete transformation in this racehorse. I turned him into the saddling stall to be saddled. The Captain refused to stand to be saddled. It was like I was now holding a hungry lion, which couldn't wait to be let out of his cage. This horse was mad and angry, and could not wait for the race to begin. The decision was made to saddle the Captain on the move, while I was walking him in a circle in the saddling area. Even doing so, we were life and death to get the saddle on him. We finally did! My dad had no opportunity to give Paul Souter any instructions or information about this horse. He just wished Paul Souter good luck!
In the post parade and warm up. I am sure that Paul Souter knew that he wasn't on a cheap claiming horse with little chance to win this race. Paul was a very accomplished jockey at this point in his career. I'm sure he felt very confident when he was loaded in the gate on Captain Dawn. "There at the post, there off" Paul gathered Captain Dawn in hand after the start of the race. He rated well going into the clubhouse turn. In the run down the back stretch you could easily see that Captain Dawn was now the hungry lion that had been let out of his cage! He was now ready to feast on his pray! Past the 3/8's pole Paul was looking for an opening to let the Captain loose. Paul found it, and this race was over! Captain Dawn bounded to the lead with ease. He was home and cooled out by the time he reached the finish line. He glided to a five and 1/2 length victory with lots of speed to spare. Captain Dawn was ready to take the Wolfe and D’Angelo families on a very exciting ride!
After Captain Dawn exciting debut. You just could not help but get motivated by this classy racehorse. He came out of his Wolfe stable debut in very fine shape. Captain Dawn had been reborn. The Captain was now confident, and happy to be alive. He was starting to enjoy his training and looking forward to running in his next race. Captain was ready to show the Woodbine faithful that he was not a cheap claiming horse. Now he was ready to show the Toronto racing community that he was a very proud and talented athlete. Captain Dawn ran back a week later on June 30th 1979, Queen's Plate day in the second race. Sadly it rained heavily that morning. This created very muddy track conditions. It takes a very courageous racehorse to run in these conditions. The horses have to try and adjust there stride to the slippery and muddy conditions. Also there eyesight can be badly impaired by the mud thrown into there faces, running behind other horses. A lot of horses do not like it, and refuse to run well in these hazardous conditions. Captain Dawn didn't enjoy running in the mud and slop either. However he was a professional, and was set on proving a point to everyone that he was a serious racehorse. His second Wolfe start would see the Captain moved up in class to the $8,000 level. Again completing at the 1 mile 1/16 distance. The race began the same way as his first race. Paul Souter took the Captain back off the pace, and rated him with confidence. Down the back stretch. He began to make his move. He moved into serious contention along the inside. Approaching the 1/4 pole he was now lying in third position and ready again to take command of this race. Down the stretch drive Captain Dawn again outclassed his opponents with ease, scoring a handy 3 length win. In the winner circle picture. After the Captain's blinkers had begin removed. You could easily see. That Captain Dawn's vision had been badly impaired by the sloppy, and muddy racing conditions. He won this race. In his trust in his faithful and talented jockey Paul Souter, and in his own courage! I enjoyed nicknaming this great partnership; "Bread and Butter". Win number two was in the books. It was time for Wolfe and D'Angelo families to celebrate again!
Before Captain Dawn came into the Sheldon Wolfe racing stable. We had never enjoyed a racehorse to win 3 consecutive starts in a row. That was soon about to change. But first some more information about our new star performer. The Captain was a 5 year old racehorse when he came into the barn. He was a handsome chestnut gelding. He stood about 16.2 hands high. He had a slight white star that he wore on his face between his wonderful and very intelligent eyes. He also was born with a bad parrot mouth. A parrot mouth is a severe overbite. The Captain was actually a very friendly horse with a very pleasing personality. He had a bad temper. However he only lost it when he was in the races. All excellent athletes must have one, to be a winner. He father was Gray Dawn II, and his mother was Lady Hillsbourgh. His pedigree was endurance and stamina. Our Captain was bred to run to the moon and back, without ever getting tired.
His next race for the Wolfe Racing Stable was to take place at Woodbine on July 8th, 1979. He was moving up in class again. He would run in the “Slow Moe Starter Handicap”, at the distance of 1 mile and ¼. The condition of this race was any horse that had competed in an $8,000 claiming race or less in 1978-1979. The big advantage of these races are, that they are non claiming, and carry a higher purse. You can run your horse in this race without any risk of selling them. This was a perfect opportunity for our rising star. The track condition came up lighting fast. We were all confident and in a state of euphoria going into this race, including the Captain. We were all looking forward to give him the chance to stretch his legs and lungs to the 1 mile and ¼ distance, and the great possibility of him winning 3 races in a row. This would be one of my favorite races in the history of my father’s training career.
The Captain trained perfect for this race, and looked great in the saddling area and paddock. He had put on weight and now looked the part now of a stakes calibere horse, and not a cheap claimer. He was ready and so were the Wolfe and D’Angelo families. The call for riders up was given. My dad gave Paul Souter his leg up on the Captain. I had the pleasure of leading “Bread and Butter" to the racetrack. I wished Paul a safe trip, and gave the Captain a pat on his neck for good luck, and they were off to the races. Captain Dawn and Paul looked great in the post parade and warm up. I was full of emotion and optimism for this race. The horses were loaded in the gate, “There at the post, there off’. Was the opening call from Daryl Wells. Captain broke from the gate in fine style; he was off to a great start. Then Paul asked him to relax, and take back off of the front runners. Which he was happy to do. The Captain looked fantastic in the run to the finish line for the first time. The field for the Slow Moe Starter Handicap now had one mile to complete to see who the winner would be. It was apparent to me, right away, who the winner would be. It would be Captain Dawn! You could see that this classy racehorse was enjoying himself and having fun. He was just playing with this field of horses like a cat does with a mouse, right before he eats it. In the run down the back stretch Captain was tracking in fourth position and was laying about 4 lenghts from the leaders. The Captain and Paul had complete control of this race. Just past the 3/8 pole the rest of the competition was starting to get tired. Captain Dawn was starting to get stronger and was moving in for the kill! Before he had reached the ¼ pole Captain Dawn had already made the lead by 1 lenght without any serious urging from Paul Souter. This was a race to remember, and to enjoy! I started the salute to our gallant warrior. I started to scream his name, Captain Dawn! In the final ¼ mile all the way to the finish line. My adrenal glade was in full motion, and the adrenalin was pouring into my body. I was in another world. All the sadness that I was carrying with me, from the death of Ontario Princess had now tuned to complete joy. Captain Dawn performance was flawless. He easily won this race by 4 lengths, and his last quarter mile time was 24.3 seconds. He completed the 1 mile and ¼ in 2:04.3. He had won all three races we had run him. Improving with each race. It was pandemonium in the winner’s circle. It was like we had won the Kentucky Derby and Queens' Plate combined. It was a winning race I will never forget!
I will profile the last wining race we had with Captain Dawn. It took place on July 28th, 1980. We call it the miracle win. This race was also a starter handicap. This race was run at the marathon distance of 1 mile and ¾. Captain Dawn was a star performer in the Wolfe stable in 1979. He will always be remembered as one of the best thoroughbred racehorses that my father ever had the pleasure to train. The last win was also a race I will never forget. The Captain like any great performer, just had the special knack of entertaining his audience to the max.
Captain Dawn had won 5 races for us in 1979. In doing so it took its toll on his front legs. His right front leg was handicapped from the injury that occurred when he was a 3 year old. His left front leg had tried to take more of the stress, compensating for the weakness in his right leg. He required a well deserved rest to get ready for his 6 year old racing season. He came back to the races in 1980 in fine shape, and ran some excellent races for us. Yet he did not get back to the winners’ circle until we shipped to good old Ft. Erie for the summer meet. A perfect spot was in the condition book for the Captain. A starter $5,000 Handicap going 1 mile and ¾. The chance to run this marathon distance would be a great opportunity for him.
The bad luck was the weather conditions. It poured rain that morning which created very muddy track conditions. Captain Dawn didn’t really enjoy running in these conditions. However he always tried to win every race he ran in our barn! The Wolfe stable always tried our best to look after him. The Captain always did his best to look after us! We were hoping for a fast track because it was a very good possibility for the Captain to have a real shot of breaking the track record for 1 mile & ¾, at Ft. Erie. However the track conditions came up muddy slop. Now the challenge for the Captain was to just try and win this race.
The main competition in the race was a horse named Sainfield. He was owned by Vikki James. He was an honest racehorse. He was going to be the pacesetter in the race. Also Sainfield had the advantage of enjoying running in the muddy going. Michael (Killer) Quong was now the jockey riding Captain Dawn. Mike had replaced Paul Souter as our number one rider in 1980. Mike Quong is also a very talented jockey and won a lot of races for our stable. I nicknamed him the “Killer” the giant killer for his incredible ride on a Conn Smyth’s horse named Lucky Conn. In 1976 Lucky Conn defeated the Queen’s Plate winner Norcliffe in the prep race for the Prince of Wales Stakes. It was an incredible ride when Mike was an inexperienced apprentice rider. Mike Quong out finished Jeff Fell on Norcliffe to win this race. Beating Jeffery Fell in a close finish was never easy.
They say that the true test of Character is coping with adversity. Captain Dawn would be faced with a lot of adversity in this race. “There at the post, there off”! Saintfield sprung to the lead at the start. Jimmy Standring was riding Saintfield. Mike Quong took Captain Dawn off the pace to try and let him settle, and to let him try and get comfortable running on the off track. In this race Captain Dawn didn’t look conformable at all in the race. He was laboring in the mudding conditions. He was trying as hard as ever, but it was a struggle for him. The prospects of the Captain winning this race were not looking good. After the field had run 1 mile and ¼, and still had ½ mile to run. Captain Dawn was still in third position. Mike Quong was working hard on the Captain to get him into contention. Sainfield who had enjoyed a dream trip. Had opened up a commanding 9 length lead by the time he reached the ¼ mile pole. Captain Dawn had now moved into second. It looked like second place would be the best case scenario on this day. At the 1/8 pole Sainfield lead was down to 5 lengths he was beginning to get tired. Then the miracle occurred! I always watched the races on the close circuit T.V. To get the best view of the race. I was watching Captain Dawn. Mike Quong was still urging him on. Even though the possibility looked hopeless to win. Then I watched as Captain Dawn finally realized that Saintfield was in from of him. I’m sure that again the Captain’s eyesight had been impaired by the sloppy track conditions. At this point Captain Dawn reached inside himself for something extra. A big shot of adrenalin is always good. The Captain started his late surge at Saintfield. Was there time for him to catch Saintfield? There was now some hope. Saintfield lead started to dwindle. Four lengths, 2 lengths, 1 length. In the last 3 strides to the finish line Captain Dawn had completed this impossible comeback win. He soared by Saintfield to win this race by a neck. We were all astonished! That the Captain had won! Sadly it would be Captain Dawn last win in his career. It was a fitting way for him to go out. He was a remarkable horse. The Wolfe family, and the D’Angelo family were very fortunate to have this special horse touch our lives. We will never forget the happiness and joy that he gave to us. Watching him run was a special pleasure!
In the win picture for the miracle win!!! You can see that Captain Dawn was still well behind Sainfield when the photo was taken.
I recently acquired a copy of Captain Dawn's racing form. Prior to the Captain being claimed by the Wolfe Racing Stable. This wonderful racehorse was running very poorly before he came into our lives. Captain Dawn ran on his great courage for us! Winning six great races for the D'Angelo & Wolfe families. This exceptional racehorse will never be forgotten!