Laurel Park plays host to five stakes on Saturday as part of its Maryland Jockey Club Celebration Day, and two are sophomore contests that could lead to bigger and better things down the road.
The $100,000 Private Terms Stakes drew seven runners going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Triple Crown nominee O Dionysus headlines the field for trainer Gary Capuano with regular rider Jevian Toledo aboard.
The Bodemeister colt is looking for his second straight stakes score after taking the one-mile Miracle Wood Stakes on February 18. O Dionysus kicked off his sophomore campaign in the Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes on January 21, rallying to be just a half-length back in second after a rough race.
“He obviously ran a very good race,” Capuano said in reference to the Miracle Wood. “Toledo was able to get him to settle a little bit. He had a good trip and didn’t get in a ton of trouble, and he finished up well. They weren’t going that fast early but that mile is tough on a lot of them. He went the last eighth strong and galloped out good, so I was really happy with that.
“The race before that he got in a ton of trouble and he looked like the best horse, but it just didn’t work out.”
O Dionysus closed out his juvenile season with a nose second to next-out Holy Bull Stakes (G2) victor Irish War Cry in the Marylander Stakes on New Year’s Eve, and has thus far managed to avoid Laurel-based multiple Grade 3 hero El Areeb.
“The race with Irish War Cry was a tough beat, but he seems to bounce back off them and he’s moving forward and doing the right things so we’ll see where he goes,” Capuano said. “As far as tackling horses like El Areeb and those horses traveling, I figured I’d just let them do their thing and just stick local for a while. If he’s good enough he’ll meet them at some point.
“It’s all about trying to see how far he’ll go. We finally get a two-turn race to see how he actually likes it. I think he will; I don’t think he’ll mind it but you’ve still got to run it. We’ve been waiting a while to get to that without shipping him out of town.
“He’s one that I just feel needs a lot of racing. He’s run (eight) times now and he hasn’t missed a beat,” Capuano added. “He was a bit of a handful early but he’s really started to settle down and be more professional.”
O Dionysus is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Private Terms and will face a familiar rival in the contest.
High Roller got the best of the bay colt in the Frank Whiteley Jr. but was no match for O Dionysus when finishing fourth in the Miracle Wood last out. The High Cotton colt, who ran third behind El Areeb in the James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel last November, is trained by Dale Capuano, older brother to Gary Capuano, and keeps Trevor McCarthy in the irons on Saturday.
The only other runner in the Private Terms with prior stakes experience is No More Talk, who finished a neck up on High Roller when third in the Miracle Wood. The Not For Love colt is trained by Francis Abbott III and gets Victor Carrasco returning to the saddle in this spot.
One race after the Private Terms, eight sophomore fillies will head to the gate for the $100,000 Caesar’s Wish Stakes going a mile on Laurel’s main track.
Jenda’s Agenda is the big draw in the one-turn affair and puts her two-for-two mark on the line while trying stakes rivals for the first time.
Trainer Larry Jones co-bred the filly with his wife, Cindy Jones, and co-owns the bay daughter of Proud Citizen with Cindy Jones and Fox Fill Farm.
Jenda’s Agenda has been based at Fair Grounds since last November, breaking her maiden by 6 1/4 lengths on January 7 and taking a mile-and-70-yard allowance/optional claimer at the New Orleans venue on February 19. She ships in for the Caesar’s Wish from Louisiana and brings jockey Gabriel Saez along for the ride as the 7-5 morning-line favorite.
Among those Jenda’s Agenda will have to face are Star Super and Crabcakes.
The former exits a neck victory in the Marshua Stakes at Laurel on January 21 for trainer Cal Lynch. The conditioner had the option of running Star Super in the Wide Country Stakes following her Marshua score but decided to skip the seven-furlong contest in favor of the Caesar’s Wish.
“She’s doing fantastic. We (wanted) to give her a chance to catch her breath,” Lynch explained. “We kind of wheeled her back quick last time. I think she bounced a little bit. She still won but it wasn’t as good a race. She’s a nice filly. We’re very optimistic about her chance to be a good filly. We just want to give her that chance.
“She’s doing well. She’s danced every dance. She’s not a big filly and she’s a filly we think that the further she goes the better. We’ve been kind of gearing her up to go a mile.”
McCarthy has the call on Star Super, who also boasts a trio of stakes placings from her juvenile campaign.
Crabcakes enters the Caesar’s Wish after suffering her first career loss when second in the Wide Country Stakes. The Bernie Houghton trainee captured her first three starts, including the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes, by a combined 12 1/2 lengths and will be stretching out past seven furlongs for the first time here.
“That race knocked her out a little bit. She got a little tired after that for a couple of days but she tried hard. She ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw there, but she bounced back after a few days and is doing good actually,” Houghton said. “She was a little nervous last time down the backside, a little rank, and then she settled in. She ran good, she just got beat by a better horse last time really. I’m hoping her to be more settled, more relaxed the first part of the race.”
Regular jockey Angel Rodriguez has the call Saturday on Crabcakes, who posted a 1:17.15 six-furlong move at her trainer’s Penn National base on March 13 to ready for the Caesar’s Wish.
“It took her a while to get settled down last time and that’s why I worked her that way. It was a slow work, long, almost like a two-minute lick the first part of it and then she picked it up,” Houghton explained. “I’ve trained her a little differently coming into this race. I did a lot of strong gallops with her and I hope that she’s going to go fine. I see that horse that beat her is not in there this time and of the ones I saw I think she’ll be competitive. As long as she relaxes the first part of it, that’s what she needs to do.”
The remaining stakes on Saturday at Laurel Park are each worth $75,000. The Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes will send nine runners 1 1/8 miles following the Caesar’s Wish while the seven-furlong Conniver Stakes and six-furlong Not For Love Stakes are restricted to Maryland-bred/sired runners.