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Spectacular Bid Stakes & Xtra Heat Stakes | Laurel Park Previews
Copper Tax (Jason Moran/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Spectacular Bid Stakes & Xtra Heat Stakes | Laurel Park Previews

Rose Petal Stable’s multiple stakes winner Copper Tax, who lost for the first time in six starts last time out, embarks on starting a new streak when he makes his sophomore debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes at Laurel Park.

The fourth running of the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid for 3-year-olds co-headlines an 11-race program with the seventh renewal of the $100,000 Xtra Heat for 3-year-old fillies. First race post time is 11:40 a.m.

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The $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes

Copper Tax, a bay son of Grade 2-winning juvenile Copper Bullet, returns to his home base at Laurel after encountering trouble and a muddy track when sixth in the 1 1/18-mile Remsen (G2) Dec. 2 at Aqueduct, his first try around two turns.

Prior to that, Copper Tax had strung together five consecutive wins including the one-mile Rocky Run in mid-October at Delaware Park and six-furlong James F. Lewis III in mid-November at Laurel, and wound up his rookie season with five wins and a second from seven starts over the final 5 ½ months of the year.

“He’s been one of those horses where he comes out of the races good and he’s ready for the next one,” trainer Gary Capuano said. “He’s just ready to go anytime you’re ready it seems like, but I wanted to give him a little bit of a breather. After he broke his maiden I gave him off three or four weeks and brought him back and then he ran quite a bit. After the New York race we kicked him out for a couple weeks, same thing, just trying to give him a little breather in between before we really put the screws to him moving forward. If he’s got a chance to go anywhere, he can’t miss too much time this time of year.”

Jaime Rodriguez, aboard for the Lewis and a pair of Delaware allowance wins, gets the return call from Post 4 in a field of nine.

“We’ll see how it goes. We have no pressure. He’s already done great, so we just want to do what’s right for him,” Capuano said. “If he can stretch out, which I still think he will, we’ll move forward there. We’ll just kind of hang here a little bit. If he does well, we’ll move on.”

Mission Beach, from the same SF Racing-led partnership that campaigned 2023 Preakness (G1) winner National Treasure, returns to stakes company in his second start since joining trainer Brittany Russell.

Fifth in the Hopeful (G1) and fourth in the Bob Hope (G3) last summer and fall for previous trainer Bob Baffert, the son of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin was a popular 1 ¾-length optional claiming allowance winner sprinting six furlongs Dec. 22 at Laurel under jockey Sheldon Russell.

“It was good to see him get the win, get him back on track and hopefully get some confidence. I think Sheldon rode him really well,” Brittany Russell said. “I think he’s the kind of horse that kind of needs a ride like that and maybe doesn’t want to be rushed. We’re hoping with more ground moving forward that he should get better, so the seven-eighths here looked appealing for us to give it a try. I think he’s a really nice horse. He trains really well. He’s been professional every day since he showed up. He’s a very good workhorse and I think it’s a good next step for him.”

Mission Beach drew Post 2 with Sheldon Russell back aboard.

“He did some good running. He ran in some tough races, too. I think [it’s helped] just getting him to Maryland and getting him a win,” Brittany Russell said. “He’ll certainly be a stakes-winner at some stage and hopefully [move on to] bigger and better things in the future.”

Built Wright Stables’ homebred Sweet Soddy J won the 6 ½-furlong Timonium Juvenile last September and seven-furlong Heft Dec. 30 at Laurel, the latter in front-running fashion in his 2-year-old finale. The Bee Jersey gelding wheeled back just seven days to run last of five in the one-mile Jerome at Aqueduct.

Also in the field are last-out winners El Divino Nino, Point Pelee, Had to Have Him and Guanare, who has put together back-to-back victories; and Parx maiden winners Maximus Meridius and Kelly’s Kidz.

The Spectacular Bid is the first in Laurel’s series of stakes for sophomores leading up to the 149th Preakness (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Following the Spectacular Bid are the $100,000 Miracle Wood going one mile Feb. 24, $100,000 Private Terms at 1 1/16 miles March 23 and $125,000 Federico Tesio April 20. For the ninth straight year, the 1 1/8-mile Tesio will serve as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the Preakness.

L Street Lady winning the 2023 Xtra Heat Stakes (Maryland Jockey Club)

The $100,000 Xtra Heat Stakes

Maryland-based Heart and New York shipper Reconcile, both exiting impressive debut victories, are entered to face winners for the first time in just their second start in Saturday’s $100,000 Xtra Heat.

The Estate of Brereton C. Jones’ Heart, part of trainer Brittany Russell’s string at Fair Hill in Elkton, Md., was a popular winner of her unveiling Dec. 29 at Laurel Park, coasting home by 4 ¾ lengths in 1:12.08 for six furlongs over a fast main track. Russell won last year’s Xtra Heat with L Street Lady and her husband, Sheldon Russell, gets the return call on the Bolt d’Oro filly from Post 3 in a field of six.

Breaking alongside Heart in Post 4 is Robert S. Evans’ Reconcile, a homebred daughter of War Front that led every step of the way to win her six-furlong maiden special weight by 1 ½ lengths in 1:11.09 Dec 11 at Aqueduct for trainer Linda Rice. Heritage Meet-leading jockey Jaime Rodriguez is named to ride.

Mens Grille Racing’s Roanan Goddess will be making her third straight stakes start in the Xtra Heat after finishing 2023 running sixth behind then-undefeated Cap Classique in the six-furlong Smart Halo and fourth to multiple stakes winner Carmelina in the seven-furlong Gin Talking. Her trainer, Hamilton Smith, swept the Xtra Heat, Wide Country, Beyond the Wire and Weber City Miss in 2022 with Luna Belle and also entered C C Royal, an 8 ¼ maiden winner at Laurel Dec. 8 at Laurel, for Mens Grille.

Completing the field are Swilcan Stables homebred Kiss for Luck, a three-quarter-length optional claiming winner Jan. 10 at Parx sprinting six furlongs; and Michael Bishop et al’s Still Game, second in back-to-back optional claimers at Laurel, the most recent Jan. 14.

Laurel’s first stakes for 3-year-old fillies en route to the 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 17 at Pimlico, the Xtra Heat is followed by the $100,000 Wide Country going seven furlongs Feb. 24, $100,000 Beyond the Wire at one mile March 23 and $125,000 Weber City Miss April 20. The 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss will again offer the winner automatic entry to the Black-Eyed Susan.