Savvy Street, in between, got the bob in the $100,000 Miracle Wood. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Combat Diver (#1) just missed in the 100,000 Miracle Wood. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Nutshell: Two Private Terms Stakes runners, Combat Diver and Bridget’s Big Luvy, were bred at Maryland’s Dark Hollow Farm from broodmare lines that began with claims.

by Ted Black

Although the biggest names expected for Saturday’s $100,000 Private Terms Stakes — locally based runners Ghost Bay and Savvy Street — will bypass the event, that doesn’t leave it without intrigue.

And indeed, their absence means that for one runner the $100,000, 1 1/8 mile test will represent his first stakes win.

Breeder David Hayden, who owns Maryland’s Dark Hollow Farm with his wife JoAnn, hopes he has a connection to that runner — and he has two shots to do so.

Dark Hollow bred two of the six runners — and both rate solid shots to be around late.

David and JoAnn Hayden. Photo Dark Hollow Farm.

David and JoAnn Hayden. Photo Dark Hollow Farm.

Of the two, Combat Diver, a Line of David colt out of the Flatter mare Safe Journey, is the more recognizable name. Although ninth in the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct two weeks ago, Combat Diver on Saturday returns to the oval where he just missed notching his first stakes tally. On February 16, Combat Diver rallied from last early to finish second and only a scant nose behind Savvy Street in the $100,000 Miracle Wood Stakes. It was his best effort in three tries against stakes company.

That Combat Diver would turn out to be a runner is no surprise.

For one thing, Joy, his half-sister by Pure Prize, is a multiple stakes winner in her own right who has earned nearly $200,000.

What’s more, Combat Diver is another in the long line of runners from a fine broodmare line that started nearly 30 years in the most unlikely of ways: with a $12,000 claim.

Back in the mid-1980s, the Haydens claimed Safely Home at Bowie Race Course with an eye to running her at Pimlico.  She subsequently suffered a career-ending injury, which turned out to be fortuitous for the daughter of Winning Hit, and for the Haydens.  As a broodmare, Safely Home’s most famous offspring was none other than Hall of Famer Safely Kept, also part of the inaugural class of the Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame.

Safely Home also was the dam of Safe At The Plate, a stakes-placed daughter of Double Zeus who produced Safe Journey.  Which, of course, leads us to Combat Diver, who sold for $100,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Old sale in Timonium last May and now seeks his first stakes win — with bigger aspirations in mind.


“The one thing that has always impressed me about the foals from that broodmare line is how good they looked,” Hayden said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “When he went through the sale he was a real good-looking colt. Even the last time he ran in the stakes at Laurel [track handicapper] Gabby [Gaudet] said he was the prettiest horse in the paddock.”

Hayden added, “I know [trainer Gary Contessa] really likes the horse.”

That, perhaps, is even an understatement.

“We look at Saturday’s race this way,” Contessa said in a release. “If he wins, we have eight weeks to get enough points to get into the [Kentucky] Derby. This race is a great opportunity to try your three-year-old around two turns. I’d love to see the Derby give points for the Private Terms.”

Derby dreaming seems quixotic for a horse whose two tries against graded foes have been disappointing.  But Contessa believes the timing — and circumstances — are right for a big step forward.

“He’s doing great,” the veteran conditioner said.  “He ran lights out at Laurel last time and should have won. Then we went to the Gotham and he didn’t have the best of trips. I think coming back to Laurel will very much be the best to our advantage.

Oddly enough, the other Dark Hollow-bred in the Private Terms, Bridget’s Big Luvy, carries a similar story.  Hayden claimed his granddam, Mystic Dance, for $25,000 back in 1995.

“We claimed his grandmother a few years back off of Eddie Gaudet,” Hayden explained.  “We thought she would turn out to be a decent broodmare.”

So she did, giving birth to stakes winners Chancellor M. H. and Dance Fee.

She also was the dam of Memories of Mystic, whose offspring include, in addition to Bridget’s Big Luvy, multiple stakes winner Mystic Love, by Dixie Union.

Bridget’s Big Luvy, a son of Tiz Wonderful trained by Jeremiah Englehart, also garnered his diploma against maiden special weight company at Belmont Park last fall, exactly three weeks after Combat Diver notched his first score. Bridget’s Big Luvy has won once in four starts and banked roughly $65,600 along the way, so he will have to win a few stakes before recouping the $175,000 purchase price Tom O’Grady paid at the Fasig-Tipton September Yearlings Sale at Timonium in 2013

“He’s another one that we liked all along,” Hayden said. “We were happy to see him go for that much.”

As for Saturday, Hayden’s hoping for big things.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to have two that we bred in the Private Terms on Saturday,” he said. “We had a bred a few mares to Private Terms at one time. He was a really good horse for [trainer] Charlie Hadry. We basically bred one-third of the field. We’re excited to see how both of them run this weekend, and me and JoAnn will be there rooting for both of them.”

Ted Black, a Maryland native, has covered racing — flat and harness, in West Virginia and in Maryland — for more than two decades. He is president of the Maryland Racing Media Association.