Coffeewithchris handily winning the Miracle Wood at Laurel Park Feb. 18 (MJC Photo)
• First Two-Turn Test for Multiple Stakes-Winning Sophomore
• Among Five Stakes Worth $450,000 in Purses Saturday, March 18
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
LAUREL, Md.— His connections will get a further indication of how far Coffeewithchris wants to go when their multiple stakes-winning sophomore attempts two turns for the first time in Saturday’s $100,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park.
The 34th running of the Private Terms at about 1 1/16 miles is the next step in Laurel’s series of stakes for 3-year-olds following the one-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 18 and preceding the $125,000 Federico Tesio going 1 1/8 miles April 15, a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
A total of five stakes worth $450,000 in purses will be offered on Saturday’s 10-race program, including the $100,000 Beyond the Wire for 3-year-old fillies on the road to the 99th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 19. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Campaigned by Fred Wasserloos, Anthony Geruso and trainer John Salzman Jr., Coffeewithchris won’t have to contend with his main rival in the Private Terms, Brittany Russell-trained Prince of Jericho, who is sitting this one out to await the Tesio. Coffeewithchris beat Prince of Jericho in the Miracle Wood and Dec. 30 Heft and was second to him in the Jan. 21 Spectacular Bid.
The Miracle Wood was the longest race to date for Coffeewithchris, a gelded son of 2014 Preakness and Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up Ride On Curlin that Salzman purchased for just $2,000 as a yearling in October 2021.
“We don’t have a lot of choices for sprinting him. He did seven-eighths, he did a mile and the horse he beat didn’t have a bad trip but not the best trip,” Salzman said. “Even he got to him at the first wire and had me in contention, but I don’t think he would have got by me. My horse sort of was going back away from him later. Maybe the horse just is tricking me. Maybe he will go a little longer. I’m hoping so, anyway. The only way to find out is to try, I guess. This is the next logical spot at home. I’m not big on shipping.”
Coffeewithchris has made nine of his 10 starts in Maryland, including stops at Pimlico and Timonium, and ran fifth in the 2022 Hickory Tree at Colonial Downs in his stakes debut. The Private Terms will be his sixth consecutive stakes attempt and fourth in a row with Jaime Rodriguez, battling for leading rider at Laurel’s winter meet. They drew outermost Post 8 at topweight of 124 pounds, yielding six pounds to each of their rivals.
“He was a bad horse as a 2-year-old, and we ended up [gelding] him and it’s made all the difference in the world. Blinkers have seemed to help, and Jaime Rodriguez hasn’t hurt him, either. It’s just all coming together at the right time for him. He’s a nice a horse. I like him,” Salzman said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked of him.
“The only disappointing day I’ve ever had with this horse was the first time I ever ran him. I swear I told the kid just get him to break good and sharp and hang on, this horse will win,” he added. “‘Chris’ just never left the gate, he never ran, and I was like what just happened. I thought he was so fast, and I went back to the barn and just shook my head. I didn’t understand it. From then on he’s had some troubled trips and he’s had some excuses and he’s never turned in a bad effort. He just seems to be getting a little better with the distance, to be honest with you.”
While Russell is giving Prince of Jericho a breather until the Tesio, she will be represented in the Private Terms by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds’ Circling the Drain, a Triple Crown-nominated Maryland homebred that is entered to make his stakes debut.
“We’ve taken him steadily up the ladder, so this is the next logical step. It’s not like we really have another option, anyway. If he can answer a question like this, then that will tell us a lot about his future,” Russell said. “He’s a big, ground-covering type of horse, so the two turns is what he’s always kind of told us that he wants.”
Circling the Drain, by West Coast out of the Cozzene mare Who’s Cozy, has two wins from four starts, both coming at the Private Terms distance. He was a front-running graduate by seven lengths in a Dec. 9 maiden claimer second time out and exits a rallying two-length optional claiming allowance triumph Feb. 20.
“He’s doing really good. I always feel like with this horse there’s a little more to him. The way he won last time I feel like there could be more horse in there. We think he needs racing and he’s doing really well. I think he could be a turf horse, but he’s just doing things right on the dirt right now so we’re just going to roll with it.”
Jevian Toledo gets the return call from Post 3.
The other Triple Crown-nominated horse in the Private Terms is Dixiana Farms homebred Hayes Strike, trained by Preakness and Belmont (G1) winner Ken McPeek. Hayes Strike has a one-mile maiden win last summer at Ellis Park to his credit and also at 2 ran second to Two Phil’s in the Street Sense (G3) and third behind Instant Coffee in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), horses respectively ranked 13th and ninth on the current Kentucky Derby (G1) points leaderboard.
Hamilton Smith-owned and trained Feeling Woozy beat Circling the Drain in an optional claiming allowance going one mile Jan. 29 at Laurel. Most recently, the Irish War Cry gelding set the pace before giving way to be third in the Miracle Wood, his second stakes start and longest race to date.
Imaginary Stables’ Howgreatisnate lost for the first time in the March 4 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, his sophomore debut, when he stumbled badly at the break and dumped jockey J.D. Acosta. The Speightster gelding reeled off four straight wins to open his career including stakes victories in the First State Dash at Delaware Park and Future Stars at Parx. Both those wins came at six furlongs, a distance he has yet to race beyond.
“He showed a lot of ability right from the start. He showed he was a pretty nice horse,” trainer Andrew Simoff said. “He’s done everything right so far. He hasn’t faced a whole lot yet but everything we’ve asked of him he’s done. It’s not his fault that he hasn’t run against anything really tough yet. We’re going to try to test him maybe Saturday and see how the two turns goes and go from there.”
Acosta is named to ride back from Post 4.
Robert Spiegel’s Register, unraced at 2, will ship in from New York to make his stakes debut for trainer David Donk. The son of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver ran second in each of his first two starts, maiden special weights sprinting six and 6 ½ furlongs, before breaking through last time out in a determined nose victory going one mile Feb. 18, all at Aqueduct.
“He’s done quite well. It was a really good effort last time,” Donk said. “The options are a bit limited now that he’s with winners, so the timing of this race works well. It was a good race at a mile last time. I’ll be curious to run him at two turns this time. It’s a steppingstone [and] probably a little better quality, although it was a pretty decent race last time. I’m curious to test him a bit and see how good he is.”
Jorge Vargas Jr., up for each of his first two races, gets the assignment from Post 5.
Jockey Charlie Marquez has ridden the Private Terms winner each of the past two years – Shackled Love in 2021 and Shake Em Loose in 2022 – and returns this year aboard Sheffield Stable’s Riccio, making his seventh straight stakes start. The Cross Traffic gelding has placed three times, running second in the Dover and third in the Rocky Run and Heft at 2, and was most recently fifth in the Miracle Wood.
Barry Schwartz’s Marty’s Magic, trained by Horacio DePaz, completes the field. The maiden is winless in five starts but comes out of a head loss to No Easy Days in a maiden special weight going about 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12 at Laurel.
Private Terms raced in the colors of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Janney’s Locust Hill Farm, winning 12 races, nine stakes and more than $1.2 million from 1987-89 including the 1988 Federico Tesio (G3) and Wood Memorial (G1) and 1989 Mass Cap (G2). His track record of 1:47 1/5 in winning the 1989 Never Bend Handicap at Pimlico still stands. He sired Grade 1-winning millionaires Soul of the Matter and Afternoon Deelites.