Circle P Set to Launch 3-Year-Old Season in $100,000 Miracle Wood

Roanan Goddess Among Four Stakes Winners in $100,000 Wide Country

LAUREL, MD – 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.

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.

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.

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. 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 Laurel’s seven-furlong Spectacular Bid 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.

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. 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; Had to Have Him, third in the Spectacular Bid and Point Dume, riding a two-race win streak.

At ages 2 and 3, Maryland-bred Miracle Wood won or placed in 13 stakes including seconds in the Jim Beam (G3) and Woodlawn (G3) prior to a fifth behind Snow Chief as the longest shot on the board (20-1) in the 1986 Preakness Stakes (G1). He was retired in 1992 after winning 14 of 117 starts and nearly a half-million dollars in purse earnings.

Roanan Goddess Among Four Stakes Winners in $100,000 Wide Country

Mens Grille Racing’s Roanan Goddess, fearless winner of her first stakes race last month in her third try, faces a new cast of characters when she returns looking for a repeat performance in Saturday’s $100,000 Wide Country.

After finishing off the board in the Smart Halo and Gin Talking at Laurel to cap her juvenile campaign, Roanan Goddess drew the rail in the six-furlong Xtra Heat Jan. 27 and was still stuck down inside approaching the eighth pole, when she powered through tight quarters and went on to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

“Down the lane a horse came over on her and bumped her pretty solid, actually, and she just pinned her ears and said, ‘Let’s go.’ She’s a gritty little thing, she really is,” trainer Hamilton Smith said. “I was very pleased with the way she responded there.

“She acted like she was mad and she drew off pretty impressively in that particular race,” he added. “It’s a different bunch this coming week and if she can come back and perform like she did the last time she should be able to compete, I would hope. We’ll see.”

The Wide Country is the next step in Laurel’s 3-year-old filly stakes series that began with the Xtra Heat and continues with the one-mile Beyond the Wire March 23 and 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss April 20, an automatic ‘Win and In’ qualifier for the 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 17 at Pimlico.

Smith swept all four Black-Eyed Susan prep races with two-time Maryland champion Luna Belle in 2022. Jeiron Barbosa, aboard for two of her three wins from seven starts including the Xtra Heat, returns to ride from outermost Post 7.

“Everything has been pretty much normal. She’s a hyper little filly and she hasn’t backed off at all, so we’re going to go ahead and try it again and see what happens,” Smith said. “We’ll run her this time and see how she does and then might just lay off her about a month or so, give her a little break. She was just doing so good, we decided to come back and try again.”

Three other stakes winners have signed on for the Wide Country. Joanne Shankle-owned and trained Kissedbyanangel went gate to wire to win the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Filly by two lengths Dec. 2, then ran fifth in the Gin Talking and most recently was third in the Jan. 7 Glitter Woman at Gulfstream Park.

Narrow Leaf Farm’s Miss Harriett upset the Maryland Million Lassie at odds of 62-1 in her career debut Oct. 14 at Laurel. After running fifth in the Smart Halo, she rebounded with a front-running optional claiming allowance score by seven lengths Jan. 14. Stronach Stable Inc. homebred Shamans Girl has run once, a 3 ½-length winner of the six-furlong Shady Well on Woodbine’s all-weather surface Dec. 2.

D. Hatman Thoroughbreds’ Determined Driver broke her maiden on the turf last summer at Colonial Downs, then ran second against the boys despite bobbling at the start and getting pinched back in the Timonium Juvenile. The Dialed In filly didn’t race again for four months, returning with a 1 ¾-length victory in an six-furlong optional claiming allowance Feb. 9 at Laurel.

“She is a real game filly. She’s kind of had some lingering physical issues that’s made us start and stop with her, and she hadn’t had a real consistent training patters going into the race. I wasn’t 100 percent certain how fit she was,” trainer Phil Schoenthal said. “Obviously I felt like she was fit enough to run and was pleased that she dug deep and got the job done. She seems to have come out of it OK. We’re not really sure if the two weeks rest going into the stake is ideal for her, but we’ll see what happens.”

Perfectly Wicked, third in the Tempted last fall at Aqueduct; and Photo Finish, a last-out maiden winner Jan. 3 at Charles Town, round out the field.

Wide Country was Maryland’s Horse of the Year in 1991 when she won eight of 13 starts as a 3-year-old, each of her victories coming in stakes, led by the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Pimlico Oaks (G3). She placed in four other graded-stakes including the Barbara Fritchie (G2) and Go for Wand (G1) in 1992 and was retired with 12 wins and $819,728 in purses earned from 26 starts.

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