Gary Caple’s roots in Thoroughbred racing extended back two generations. His grandfather, Hewlette R. Caple, was a respected horseman, and his father, late Louisville, Ky., native William Caple, led the trainer standings at Calder Race Course in Miami in 1971.
“I’ve worked for a lot of horsemen,” said fiancée Chris Reynolds, a mutuels teller at Tampa Bay Downs, “and Gary was one of the best. He learned so much from his grandfather and his father, and he seemed to always figure out what each horse needed individually.”
The 60-year-old Caple died Sunday morning in Oldsmar after a lengthy illness. The Miami native, an owner and trainer for more than 20 years, is credited with 333 career training victories and purse earnings of $3,353,199 by Equibase.
In addition to Reynolds, survivors include his mother, Mary Caple; brother William Caple, Jr.; sister Sherri Fairbanks; nephew Joseph Fairbanks; and niece Nicole Fairbanks.
A funeral service for Caple will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday at Countryside Funeral Home at 9185 NE Jacksonville Rd. in his hometown of Anthony, Fla. Visitation will be one hour prior.
Reynolds said long-time south Florida horseman Fred Warren, who died Oct. 3, was also a mentor and father figure to Gary.
Among Caple’s best horses was Groomstick Stock’s, who finished second in the 1999 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at odds of 31-1.
Caple, who also bred horses, named several of his runners after family members, including My Granny and her homebred daughter Sherribaldi (after his sister), who won nine career races. He honored his fiancée by giving a daughter of Proud Accolade-Blushing Sword the name Reynolds; the now-5-year-old mare won four races during the 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Downs meeting while trained by William Downing.
Close friend Bernie Dickman of Ocala, former editor of The Florida Horse and a long-time turf writer with several newspapers, including the Miami Herald, Miami News and Fort Lauderdale News, echoed Reynolds’ view that Caple knew how to get the most from every horse he trained.
“In December of 1999, David Goldman and his son Peter claimed a 2-year-old filly named Runagate at Calder and sent her to Gary,” Dickman recalled. “She broke her maiden two starts later at Tampa Bay Downs and turned into a very productive runner.
“She was claimed in November of 2002 for $16,000, but her new connections couldn’t figure out what she needed and dropped her in for a $5,000 claiming tag at Monmouth the following June. Gary claimed her back for the Goldmans and put her on the turf, and she wound up winning 17 races (including four in a row in 2003) and more than $240,000.
“He enjoyed racing, understood the game and was very dedicated to what he did,” Dickman added. “He learned from two consummate horsemen in his grandfather and father, and he was a hands-on trainer who was always at the barn.”
Reynolds said Caple was very opinionated when it came to horses and racing.
“He could be very stubborn, but deep down he had a great heart,” she said. “He made some very long-lasting friendships through racing.”