Copper Tax Draws Outside 10 Rivals in $125K Tesio

April 14, 2024

Copper Tax fought hard for the victory in the Private Terms March 23 at Laurel Park. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

‘Win & In’ for TC-Nominated Horses to 149th Preakness (G1) May 18

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md. – Having rediscovered his stakes-winning form in dramatic fashion last month after two disappointing efforts around two turns, Rose Petal Stable’s Copper Tax will face a familiar cast of characters when he returns in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Saturday, April 20, at Laurel Park.

The 43rd running of the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio headlines an 11-race program featuring five stakes worth $550,000 in purses on the second of back-to-back Spring Stakes Spectacular Saturdays, including the first three of the season scheduled for Laurel’s world-class turf course.

First race post time is 12:25 p.m. The Tesio is Race 10, with a post time of 4:56 p.m. EST

Named for the noted Italian breeder, owner and trainer whose homebreds Nearco and Ribot dominate Thoroughbred bloodlines around the world, the Tesio for a ninth straight year serves as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds to the 149th Preakness Stakes May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

A total of 23 Tesio winners have gone on to run in the Preakness, Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, including last year’s winner, Perform, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. Maryland-bred Deputed Testamony, in 1983, is the lone horse to sweep both the Tesio and Preakness, while Tesio runners-up Ruler On Ice (2011) and Monday Morning Qb (2020) respectively went on to capture the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Maryland Million Classic.

Copper Tax turned in what trainer Gary Capuano felt was the Copper Bullet colt’s best effort to date in the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 23 at Laurel, a race where he overcame an eventful trip to emerge from a three-way photo a neck winner of his third career stakes and second at Laurel following the six-furlong James F. Lewis III last fall to cap a five-race win streak.

“Actually, I was kind of in awe in that last race,” Capuano said. “He was down on the inside, not on a good part of the racetrack most of the race. Going around the turn he just kind of hung there and it looked like he was going to fade a little bit. He finally got outside and got to running, and turning for home when he got a little daylight there just really kicked in. It was outright determination to get up to win that. That was a fantastic race.”

Runner-up Inveigled, also beaten a neck in the Lewis; Feb. 24 Miracle Wood winner Speedyness, another head back in third, and 2023 Maryland Juvenile winner Circle P, Startswithadream and Celtic Contender, who respectively ran fourth, fifth and eighth in the Private Terms, all return in the Tesio.

“That was the impressive part about it, [beating horses like] Speedyness and [Inveigled]. Those are two extremely talented horses that have been running extremely well,” Capuano said. “To come there and run that kind of race and run those horses down at the end was pretty impressive. That was a very, very solid field. Very solid.”

Copper Tax has previously knocked heads with such horses as Kentucky Derby (G1)-bound Dornoch and Sierra Leone, Grade 1 winners that ran 1-2 in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) Dec. 2 at Aqueduct, where Copper Tax finished sixth in his two-turn debut. After plans were disrupted by winter weather, Copper Tax was rerouted to Tampa Bay Downs for the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Feb. 10 and wound up 10th.

“Obviously the Remsen was just a super race. So many good horses have come out of that race, as we know. The track bias there that day that was a tough race for him,” Capuano said. “The Tampa race, I hate to give an excuse, but he just didn’t get hold of racetrack at all. He really didn’t like that track, so to come back and run the way he did was a big sigh of relief. He can do two turns. Those [first] two two-turn races where he didn’t show up very well didn’t look too good. To come back and do it, it was nice, against a solid bunch.”

Copper Tax is one of nine Triple Crown-nominated horses in the Tesio eligible to take advantage of the Preakness incentive. Apprentice J.G. Torrealba, up for the Private Terms, returns to ride from outermost Post 11 for Capuano, who won the Florida Derby (G1) and ran second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness with Captain Bodgit in 1997.

“I think the Preakness this year is going to really be a very, very salty race regardless of what happens in the Derby. I think it’s going to be the highlight of the Triple Crown, to be honest,” Capuano said. “It’s definitely a thought, but it’s not my goal. This horse, he’s not a great big horse. The races take a little bit out of him, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Mark Grier’s Inveigled ran three times between the Lewis and Private Terms, all at Gulfstream Park, winning an optional claiming allowance and running fourth by 1 ½ lengths in the Mucho Macho Man, both going one mile, and fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3). Among the horses he faced were Hades, 2-year-old male champion Fierceness and subsequent Grade 3 winners Domestic Product and First World War.

Morris Kernan Jr. and Jagger Inc.’s Speedyness, bred, co-owned and trained by Jamie Ness, raced around two turns for the first time in the Private Terms, setting an honest pace and digging in when challenged late by Inveigled, neither able to hold off Copper Tax. A gelded son of Great Notion, Speedyness was third to Circle P in the Maryland Juvenile and beat that rival in the one-mile Miracle Wood.

“He’s doing great. I thought he ran a really nice race last time,” Ness said. “He took a lot of pressure the whole way, gutted it out and just missed. I was really, really happy the way he ran.”

Speedyness, five-for-nine lifetime at Laurel with a pair of thirds, will have the services of regular rider Jaime Rodriguez from Post 1. Ness is hoping that the stretchout works to their advantage.

“I like the mile and an eighth for him. He’s got speed and he might not get as much pressure as he got last time,” Ness said. “[Rodriguez] said the distance is no problem, it’s just how fast he goes early. That’s the whole key. We had to go a little faster than we wanted the other day and it cost us about a half a length at the end of the race. We’ll try again.”

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher won the Tesio in 2020 with Happy Saver as a prelude to his next-out victory over older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), going on to place in four other Grade 1 stakes and earn more than $1.2 million in purses.

Pletcher is represented this year by Bridlewood Farm and Don Alberto Stable’s Carolo Rapido, coming off a popular 2 ¼-length maiden special weight victory March 22 at Laurel going 1 1/16 miles. It was a marked improvement from his first two races in December and January at Aqueduct, where the son of Hall of Famer Curlin was beaten a total of 15 ½ lengths.

“I thought he improved in his last race. It seems like he’s developing, so we’ll see if he can handle the step up in class,” Pletcher said. “But he’s improving. I don’t think he’s quite got it all together yet, but his pedigree suggests he should get better with time.”

Jorge Ruiz gets the call from Post 9.

LBR Racing Stable, Sterling Road Stables and Rashid’s Thoroughbred Racing’s Classic Joke wheels back just two weeks after dueling up front and fading to ninth in the seven-furlong Bay Shore April 6 at Aqueduct. Trained by Richard Sillaman, the Practical Joke colt broke his maiden sprinting six furlongs last fall at historic Pimlico Race Course and has yet to race as far as one mile.

Taking Risks Stable and Louis Ullman’s Malinois, by Dortmund, is entered to make his stakes debut after reeling off three straight wins at 1 1/16 miles by 10 ¼ combined lengths after being claimed for $20,000 by trainer Phil Capuano out of a fifth-place finish in a one-mile maiden event Dec. 15.

Completing the field are a pair of supplemental entries, Lat Long and Mission Beach. SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Dianne Bashor, Robert Masterson, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan and Tom Ryan’s Mission Beach ran fourth in the Bay Shore and seventh in the Withers (G3) this year after winning a six-furlong optional claiming allowance Dec. 22 at Laurel in his first start since being transferred from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to Brittany Russell.

Walking L Thoroughbreds’ Lat Long was third or better in each of his first six starts, graduating by 2 ¼ lengths fifth time out going 1 1/16 miles Dec. 17 at Oaklawn Park. This year the Liam’s Map colt has run third in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds and ninth in the April 6 Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland for trainer Ken McPeek.

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