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Miracle Wood Stakes 2024 | Laurel Park Picks
Circle P (Maryland Jockey Club)

Miracle Wood Stakes 2024 | Laurel Park Picks

DeSales 85’s Triple Crown-nominated Circle P, unraced since an impressive victory in his stakes debut 12 weeks ago, will make his highly anticipated return against 10 rivals including multiple stakes winners Copper Tax and Sweet Soddy J in Saturday’s $100,000 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park Race Track.

The 29th running of the one-mile Miracle Wood serves as the co-headliner a nine-race program with the 31st edition of the Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies sprinting seven furlongs. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

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Though based at Penn National with trainer Flint Stites, Circle P has made his last three starts at Laurel, two of them wins by 8 ¼ combined lengths, the most recent coming in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Dec. 2.

After missing both the Heft to end the year and Spectacular Bid last month, the bay Speightster gelding is set to launch his comeback.

“He’s doing great. He’s bigger, better and stronger, I think,” Stites said. “He just had a minor issue that we had to take care of, nothing drastic, just time and backing off a little bit. He seemed to come out of it great.”

In the Maryland Juvenile, Circle P settled near the back of the pack as Catahoula Moon and Speedyness dueled on the front end, then came with a powerful move on the outside to pass both and horses and win by 1 ¾ lengths.

Speedyness, who finished third and is also entered in the Miracle Wood, returned to win a one-mile optional claiming allowance by 14 ¼ lengths Jan. 7.

“It was pretty nice. He broke a little slow, slower than I wanted, but the pace was really quick,” Stites said. “He just sat there and [jockey] Ricardo Chiappe turned him loose on the turn and he started mowing them down. That’s kind of the way he likes to do it. When we work him, we put somebody in front of him and he loves to chase them.”

With Chiappe injured, Julio Hernandez gets the call on Circle P from Post 9.

“I think the distance will be fine, we’ll just have to go ahead and try,” Stites said. “I don’t think he wants to go real long, but a mile should hit him right in his wheelhouse.”

Rose Petal Stable’s Copper Tax is 0-for-2 this year after putting together five consecutive wins at 2, two of them in stakes, capped by the six-furlong James F. Lewis III Nov. 11 at Laurel Park.

He finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) Dec. 2 at Aqueduct and was 10th in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) Feb. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Built Wright Stables’ Sweet Soddy J exits a runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid at Laurel Park Jan. 27.

The most experienced horse in the field with 10 starts, three of them wins, he captured the Timonium Juvenile second time out and was a front-running six-length winner of the Heft Dec. 30 at Laurel Park.

Goodfella’s Regalo faded to fourth after pressing the pace in the one-mile Jerome Jan. 6 at Aqueduct, but returns to his home track where he graduated by 5 ¼ lengths last fall and won a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance by 4 ½ in December.

He will race with blinkers for the first time in the Miracle Wood under jockey Sheldon Russell.

“You load them up and you learn something about them,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “We always toyed with the idea of putting a blinker on him and he was just sort of running well and winning. Off [the Jerome] Sheldon came back and said, ‘I think it’s time.’ There was a good group in front of him that day. I feel better about keeping him home.”

Norman Stables’ Startswithadream, by 2017 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, went unraced at 2 and debuted Jan. 28 with a front-running maiden special weight triumph sprinting six furlongs in the slop at Laurel Park.

He tuned up with back-to-back five-furlong bullet workouts at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

“He came out of his maiden win strong. He’s had two really, really nice breezes and seems to be doing well and eating well,” trainer James ‘Chuck’ Lawrence II said. “There’s some quality horses in there and it’ll be a good test for him.”

Completing the field are:

  • Cap Com, sixth in the Maryland Juvenile
  • Cool in Blue, third in the Heft; Formal Affair, a last-out maiden winner Jan. 7 at Laurel Park
  • Had to Have Him, third in the Spectacular Bid
  • Point Dume, riding a two-race win streak

The Miracle Wood is the second of Laurel’s series of stakes for 3-year-olds leading up to the 149th Preakness (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course. It is followed by the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 23 and 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio April 20, the latter a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the Preakness.

Four of 11 horses in the Miracle Wood – Circle P, Copper Tax, Regalo and Startswithadream – are among the 346 nominated to the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness and Belmont Stakes (G1) by the early Jan. 29 deadline for $600. The late deadline, with a $6,000 fee, is April 1.