Copper Tax bounces back in Private Terms win

It turns out that all Copper Tax needed was a fair shot.

After back-to-back clunkers in graded company – behind major Kentucky Derby contenders Dornoch and Sierra Leone in the Grade 2 Remsen and over a strip he didn’t fancy in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs – the three-year-old Copper Bullet colt needed a bounceback effort in a big way.

Saturday at Laurel Park, he got it, rallying outside to win the $100,000 Private Terms Stakes for three-year-olds for his third career stakes win.

The Private Terms was one of two sophomore stakes on the card that could have down-the-road implications, as Determined Driver obliterated the field in the $100,000 Beyond the Wire for three-year-old fillies.

“We needed to get a two-turn, fair shot,” said winning trainer Gary Capuano. “I mean, you look at the race in New York [the Remsen] and everybody come out of there being gorillas. Everybody that came out of that race ran huge, and even the race at Delaware, the Rocky Run, horses coming out of that race are running big.”

The return to form couldn’t have come at a better time. The next local race for sophomores is the Federico Tesio Stakes April 20, and that is a “win and in” for the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes May 18. 

Copper Tax now has six wins from nine career starts to go with earnings of $311,500.

The win was also the first for Copper Tax’s rider, the apprentice J. G. Torrealba, who won two races on the day and declared himself “really, really happy” afterwards.

On rider selection, Capuano found himself betwixt and between. Jaime Rodriguez, who’s ridden Copper Tax three times previously, had the mount on Speedyness for his go-to trainer, Jamie Ness. And Mychel Sanchez, who was the pilot in Copper Tax’s victorious Rocky Run outing, landed on morning line favorite Inveigled for trainer Jane Cibelli.

“I was kind of up in the air on who to use, and he’s been working with me in the mornings,” Capuano said of Torrealba. “He’s ridden a couple for me, and you know bug riders: they’re hungry. They ride hard, and he did that.”

He needed to, and he needed just about every inch of the stretch, to get there.

When the gates opened, the normal early lick of Speedyness propelled that runner to the front. He led after a half-mile in 47.39 seconds and three quarters in 1:12.90, and at both calls onetime claimer Point Dume was his nearest pursuer.


Copper Tax, meanwhile, was in mid-flight but well off the lead pair. He was nine lengths behind after a half-mile and still found himself 6 ½ lengths in arrears after three quarters.

Rounding the turn, Speedyness shook loose from the competition, kicking clear in upper stretch. Copper Tax began to rev up his run midway on the turn, swinging six wide as the field turned for home.

“Around the turn there, [Torrealba] had to get after him to get him closer,” Capuano said. “And I’m saying, ‘Get off the rail! Get off the rail!’ and I told him to try to get off the rail as soon as you can. And when he eased out, he was just kind of grinding and I could see him coming, and I’m like, ‘Come on, boy. You can do it.’”

Inveigled, too, was mounting a late bid between horses, and he, Copper Tax, and Speedyness hit the rail virtually as one. Copper Tax had a neck in front, with Inveigled just pipping Speedyness for the place spot. It was two lengths farther back to Circle P, who rallied for fourth.

Running time for the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy, sealed main track was 1:46.38. Copper Tax paid $6.60 to win and topped an exacta that returned $18.00 for a one-dollar wager.

Capuano said the Tesio was the “logical” next step for Copper Tax, owned by Rose Petal Stable LLC, as long as “he comes out of it good, eats up. He’s still a light kind of horse. He’s not robust, but he’s got a lot of heart.”

One race earlier, post time favorite Determined Driver ran away and hid from the field in the one-mile Beyond the Wire, winning by 12 ½ lengths in 1:39.68.

“It was more than I expected,” said winning rider Forest Boyce, who continues to enjoy a strong winter meet. “There were some nice fillies in there. It was a small field but a solid field.”

Boyce put Determined Driver in a perfect spot behind the dual leaders, Kissedbyanangel and Aoife’s Magic, cleared to the front while wide nearing the quarter-pole, and drew away to win with aplomb.

“She wanted to be much closer today,” Boyce said. “It was nice because she was just taking me there the whole way. It’s always good not having to chase them.”

The win was Boyce’s second stakes win in a week. Last Saturday she steered Too Many Kisses, trained by Tim Keefe, to a win in the Conniver Stakes, also at Laurel Park.

It was the first stakes win for Determined Driver, a homebred for Matt Dorman’s D Hatman Thoroughbreds who is trained by Phil Schoenthal. Her two prior stakes tries had both resulted in second-place finishes, against the boys in a troubled effort in the Timonium Juvenile last September and then last month behind Miss Harriett in the Wide Country.

“Phil does a great job. It’s great to have some nice dirt horses to ride again,” Boyce said.