Stakes Action Highlights Daytime and Nighttime Cards this Weekend

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Ted Black

March 16th, 2017

While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts are already looking ahead to the annual, lucrative Dubai World Cup card that will feature Arrogate in the $10 million main event, a good portion of them will focus on the Saturday card at Laurel Park which offers five stakes, including the $100,000 Private Terms Stakes for three-year-old colts and geldings looking to potentially earn a berth in the Preakness Stakes starting gate.

As is often the case among ungraded stakes in March, the Private Terms did not come up too deep and the one-mile and one-sixteenth event on the main track actually includes a genuine standout. O Dionysus, a Maryland-bred son of Bodemeister trained by Gary Capuano of Captain Bodgit fame for owner Marathon Farms, Inc. [Peter Angelos], arrives off a sharp, three-length victory in the $75,000 Miracle Wood Stakes and sports a solid 3-3-1 slate and $170,000 bankroll from eight starts.

O Dionysus, a $190,000 yearling purchase by Angelos, won his August 20 career debut by three lengths two weeks after he was scheduled to make his initial start. Soon after Capuano gave jockey Jevian Toledo a leg up for a one-turn maiden special weight event last August 6, O Dionysus got squirrelly upon walking up the ramp to the main track and tossed Toledo, stepped on his foot and then sprinted through the stretch in the wrong direction and was subsequently scratched.

Fittingly, Toledo returned from being sidelined briefly by O Dionysus to ride him in his genuine career debut on Aug. 20 and the Bodemeister colt again ran off in the post parade after an unsuccessful attempt to dump his rider and then rallied four-wide to prevail by three lengths in 58.86 for the five panels. After two modest tries against allowance foes at Laurel, O Dionysus ventured to Parx and promptly won the Elser Memorial by two lengths, finishing about three lengths clear of Maryland Million Nursery hero Greatbullsoffire.

Four weeks later in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity, however, Greatbullsoffire attained immediate, swift revenge when he romped home six lengths clear while O Dionysus settled for fourth as the 9-5 favorite. Then in the final start of his freshman campaign, O Dionysus finished a gritty second in the $100,000 Marylander Stakes, beaten just a nose by Irish War Cry, who followed up that performance with a handy score in the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park before throwing in a dud in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes there.

O Dionysus then failed as the 2-5 favorite in the Frank Whitely Stakes on January 21 at Laurel, but he atoned for that setback when he delivered an emphatic, three-length score in the Miracle Wood as the 4-5 choice. Against moderate opposition this weekend in the Private Terms, named in honor of the Maryland-based colt who suffered his first setback as the favorite in the 1988 Kentucky Derby won by Winning Colors, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly, O Dionysus looms the odds-on choice as he looks to take another step toward a possible berth in the May 20 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

One of his main threats appears to be High Roller, a High Cotton colt trained by Dale Capuano, Gary's older brother. High Roller already owns a narrow victory over O Dionysus in the Frank Whitely before settling for fourth behind him and two others in the Miracle Wood. New York invader Twisted Tom won his latest outing over the inner track at Aqueduct for trainer Chad Brown and the Creative Cause gelding bears watching in his stakes debut.

That same evening at Yonkers Raceway in New York, standardbred fans will get their first genuine taste of "March Madness" when the track presents four divisions of the George Morton Levy Memorial Series for free-for-all pacers. Although the event did not attract Wiggle It Jiggleit, who will make his five-year-old debut in June, or mainstays Foiled Again and Sapphire City, the four splits all appear contentious and should set the stage for a stellar $500,000 final at April 22.

In the opening split, multiple Open Handicap heroes Guantanamo Bay (Scott Zeron) and Caviart Luca (George Brennan) will look to defend their home strip against Dover Downs invaders Missile J (Tim Tetrick) and McArdles Lightning (John Campbell). Keystone Velocity drew the rail for his second start of the season and should be sharper for this outing, while Blood Brother (Jason Bartlett) was a game runner-up behind Guantanamo Bay in the Open last week.
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In the second split, railbound Great Vintage (Mark MacDonald) makes his seasonal debut off a sharp qualifier for trainer Jimmy Takter, while 2016 Levy runner-up All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley) makes his seasonal bow following two good qualifiers at The Meadowlands. He finished the 2016 season with a 4-5-7 slate and $625,000 bankroll from 27 starts, capped by a track record 1:48.2 score in the inaugural $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway.

Locals Long Live Rock, Santa Fe Beach Boy, Melmerby Beach and Anwar Hanover will seek upsets, but McWicked (Zeron) was clearly the sharpest of those who prepped over the strip last week when he won the Saturday finale against non-winners of $25,000 last five starts company in 1:53.2 despite a four-week absence. McWicked had won his seasonal debut at Pompano Park in 1:50.2 on Feb. 12 after two superb qualifiers over the Florida five-eighths mile oval and looms a serious player in the series.

Then one race later in the third Levy split, Mach It So (Tetrick) makes his seasonal debut for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. off a pair of solid qualifiers at The Meadowlands. He ended 2016 with a solid 9-5-1 slte and $420,000 bankroll and now sports 34 wins and nearly $1.7 million banked from 94 lifetime outings, so the Levy final - or consolation - would mark the 100th start of his career. He finished second in the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington last September in his title defense of that affair.

While Mach It So is the obvious proven commodity in the Levy and a mainstay in the event the previous three years, Provocativeprince N (Jordan Stratton) represents the most serious new shooter. Arriving from the same connections - trainer Peter Tritton and owner Harry von Knoblauch - that dominated the Levy last spring with Bit Of A Legend N, Provocativeprince N has won all three of his starts this year and four of five outings since arriving from 'down under' and should have an immedite impact on the series.

Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras) arrives off consecutive wins at two different ovals and looms the best of the Burke brigade this spring. Bettor's Edge (Brett Miller), a former Burke trainee, drew the rail for trainer John Kokinos and will look to regain his winning ways over the strip as he rapidly approaches 150 career starts and $2 million banked. Texas Terror N defeated conditioned foes last week despite a troubled trip and he actually won an opening Levy leg last year in 1:51. Americanprimetime has been the beaten favorite against much lesser in his previous two tries, but owns some good efforts over the strip.

Speaking of Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton), the defending Levy hero is still in quest of his first win in three tries this year but the Tritton trainee finally draws inside for this spot. Bit Of A Legend N finished the 2016 campaign with a 13-6-1 slate and $725,000 banked from 28 starts. He won all five legs of the Levy - including an epic dead heat with 2015 horse of the year Wiggle It Jiggleit - and then cruised home in the final. His two starts this year may not offer any clues to his returning ability.

While Bit Of A Legend N is still seeking to regain his winning ways, Somewhere In L A (Bartlett) has appeared dominant at times in the Open Hcp for trainer Richard Banca and looms a major player throughout the series. Delaware invaders Soto (Kakaley) and Wakizashi Hanover (Tetrick) raced well in opposing spots over the strip last week and both loom major players here. Soto won the Open here two starts back and virtually trained over the track last week from the eight hole.

Always At My Place (Gingras) has the rail for Burke, but he is still looking to regain the form he enjoyed at age four two years ago. Te Kawau N has beaten conditioned foes here but gets another acid test in the Levy. Artistic Major (Zeron) could be a factor in subsequent events when he draws inside, while P H Supercam (Bartlett) is still winless in eight outings this year and draws the eight hole following a dull effort as the 3-5 favorite against much softer last week.