Laurel: Patient Toledo, Rodriguez rides key 2yo stakes wins

A pair of two-year-old stakes races Saturday at Laurel Park played pretty much to form – thanks in large part to a pair of patient rides.

With Jevian Toledo in the irons, Cap Classique slipped through up the rail to win the $100,000 Smart Halo for fillies, while Copper Tax ran his win streak to five when he bulled his way through traffic to win the James F. Lewis, III Stakes under Jaime Rodriguez.

Both wins were popular with the bettors, Cap Classique going off the 2.30-1 second choice and Copper Tax 1-2 at post time.

“It wasn’t a fun one, behind everybody trying to find my spot,” Toledo admitted afterwards. “Thank God, it kind of opened up when I got through, so everything worked out good.”

Cap Classique, trained by Brittany Russell for David Ross’s DARRS Inc., had won her first two starts, one on the turf, with ease. Most recently, the Vino Rosso filly, a $145,000 purchase as a two-year-old in training this past May at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale, had won an allowance locally by seven lengths.

It was more difficult this time. The first half-mile saw post-time favorite Deboisblanc, a Brad Cox shipper ridden by Sheldon Russell, slugging it out with Maryland Million Lassie winner Miss Harriett, who held the lead by a head after a half in 46.51 seconds.

Cap Classique, meanwhile, was four back and hugging the rail. Turning for home, Deboisblanc challenged and then took over from a tiring Miss Harriett, who faded to fifth. But the rail opened up, and Cap Classique went through willingly to prevail by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:12.09 for six furlongs on a fast main track.

“You’re getting concerned a little bit [that the hole might not materialize], but I was confident in my filly, you know?” Toledo said. “I had a lot of horse. I mean, she’s a really good one. When you ask her, she gives you.”

Cap Classique, now three-for-three, lodged her first stakes win and now has $128,400 in earnings.

One race later, Jaime Rodriguez faced a similar conundrum aboard Copper Tax: plenty of horse but no place to put him.


Usually on or just off the lead, Copper Tax, fresh off an easy win in the one-mile Rocky Run Stakes at Delaware Park, found himself a bit outfitted early in this six-furlong affair, last after a quarter-mile and still fifth of seven after a half in 46.17. Up front, recent maiden winner Inveigled and Timonium Juvenile winner Sweet Soddy J were throwing down the fractions.

“I was concerned because he never comes off the pace,” Rodriguez said. “Every time when he runs, he’s 1-2-3 [early], but today he took it like a champ.”

Copper Tax
Jaime Rodriguez and Copper Tax found the front in the James F. Lewis, III Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue.

Rounding the turn, Copper Tax, a Copper Bullet colt, came between horses to leave last place, then found himself again behind a wall of horses in the lane.

Sweet Soddy J stuck with it until tiring in the final furlong, while Inveigled never threw in the towel. As Sweet Soddy J began to tire just a bit, 16-1 shot Bolt of Aurum moved up to the outside, but with just the width of a horse between those two rivals, Rodriguez and Copper Tax found a seam through.

“I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go because I don’t want to get out and get beat,” the rider said. “So I said, ‘Let me go get the shortcut. If we win, we win. If we get beat, we’re gonna get beat right on the wire.”

He took the shortcut, his mount and Bolt of Aurum bumping while Sweet Soddy J drifted out, and prevailed by a neck over Inveigled, with Bolt of Aurum three parts of a length farther back in third.

“He gave me everything, he never gave up,” Rodriguez said. “After the wire, he galloped out  pretty good, and I was really happy with the way he ran today.”

Copper Tax is now five-for-six in his career and has $250,000 in earnings. He is trained by Gary Capuano for Rose Petal Stable LLC.

NOTES Hybrid Eclipse ran past Opus Forty Two to win the Thirty Eight Go Go by five lengths for her fifth career stakes victory. Sheldon Russell was up for trainer Brittany Russell and owner The Elkstone Group LLC… Brittany Russell won two stakes on the day, while Gary Capuano won one and the nightcap, a maiden claimer… Rider Jaime Rodriguez was the only jock to win two races today… St. James the Great spread-eagled the field in a grassy, nine-furlong, maiden special weight, winning by almost five (with the show horse 12 back). It was the two-year-old Catholic Boy gelding’s first win from four starts; he’s trained by Keri Brio and was ridden by Horacio Karamanos. Of note: his time of 1:48.90 was about a second faster than that recorded by Inchon in the race’s other division…