Preakness ‘A Consideration’ for Multiple Stakes Winner Copper Tax

Preakness ‘A Consideration’ for Multiple Stakes Winner Copper Tax

3YO Colt Earned Automatic Berth for Victory in April 20 Federico Tesio

LAUREL, MD – The 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, will be part of the conversation when the connections of $125,000 Federico Tesio winner Copper Tax discuss future plans for the multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old.

Rose Petal Stable’s Copper Tax earned an automatic berth to the $1.5 million Preakness May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course by virtue of his workmanlike victory in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Tesio at Laurel Park, where he is based with trainer Gary Capuano. It was the second straight stakes win, third at his home track and fourth overall for the bay son of Copper Bullet.

Capuano is no stranger to the Preakness, having run third by two heads with Florida Derby (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Captain Bodgit in 1997 and eighth in 2003 with Cherokee’s Boy, whose 14 career stakes included the Tesio.

“Obviously [the Preakness] is a consideration. It wasn’t my real goal going in, I was just hoping he ran a really good race and showed himself again, which he did. He really ran tremendous,” trainer Gary Capuano said. “We will take a look and see how things shape up and how he bounces back and how he trains in the next week or two. We’ll look at who might be coming and who might not. [We] probably won’t make any decision until after the [May 4] Derby. We’ll let him tell us. It’s not out of the question, but it’s kind of still a longshot. We’ll see how it goes.

“He’s not a real big horse. He’s kind of a little on the light side,” he added. “Best case scenario is if I could try to get some weight on him, but it’s kind of hard when you’re trying to get him to a race like that to try and put some substance on him. He just seems to get it done, so that’s a good thing. We’ll see how the race is shaping up and how he comes out of this last one. We’ll make that decision later.”

Copper Tax drew the outermost post in a Tesio field that scratched down to 10, stumbled badly and broke outwardly when the gates opened, quickly gathered himself but wound up being forced five paths wide around the first turn racing outside Carolo Rapido. Copper Tax maintained an outer presence in the clear down the backstretch, moved up to fourth following Inveigled rounding the far turn, put that rival away and set his sights front-running Speedyness, who had set an uncontested pace throughout.

“He stumbled pretty badly leaving the gate and skinned himself up, actually lost a shoe, too, leaving there. But luckily it all worked out and he came back fine, just a little scraped up on the front of his ankles from when he went down on his knees. He just got it done,” Capuano said. “He seemed fine this morning, alert, ate up everything and looked no worse for wear, so that’s a good thing.”

Speedyness, gate-to-wire winner of the one-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 24 at Laurel who led into deep stretch of the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 23 before being passed by Copper Tax and winding up a narrow third, was similarly tenacious in the Tesio but again could not hold off a determined winner that edged clear by three-quarters of a length for a second consecutive two-turn stakes triumph.

“I’m really excited,” Rose Petal’s Chris Loso said. “He gives me a heart attack every time he runs because there’s always something that happens out of the gate, but he’s got a lot of heart. I was just amazed at how he made that comeback going around that last turn yesterday. He was phenomenal.

“I just think he’s a determined horse. He’s very focused and he has a huge heart,” he added. “That horse does not want to lose. You can train a horse all you want, but there’s just some horses that have that ‘it,’ and he has it. He just won’t give up, which is amazing.”

Copper Tax has had three races in 71 days to start his sophomore season beginning with a trip to Florida for the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) Feb. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs, where he wound up 10th. It was his first start since finishing sixth behind the likes of Grade 1 winners and Derby-bound Dornoch and Sierra Leone in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) in December at Aqueduct.

“The race in New York, the sloppy track [and] inside speed, it was just a tough spot for him. And so many good horses have come out of that race, we’ve seen that,” Capuano said. “Then the race at Tampa, he didn’t get hold of the track the week before. In hindsight he probably shouldn’t have run but you’re there, you figure, ‘what the heck,’ and good horses usually overcome. He just didn’t get much of a trip that day and just never got hold of it. He bounced back these two times pretty nice.

“It was big to come back last time out to run the way he did before, and yesterday to come back on a fast track where it wasn’t muddy and everybody kind of had a fair shot, I think,” he added. “He just proved that he’s pretty tough.”

As he has since Copper Tax – a horse Capuano purchased for $45,000 in Kentucky as a 2022 yearling – launched his career last June, Loso will lean on his trainer when it comes sorting out the variables and seeing if the Preakness makes sense.

“We just have to look at what the field has to offer in that race and does our horse have a legitimate chance at doing well. The big thing is the psychology of it. Just like any of us, do we have a reasonable chance at doing well in a race?” Loso said. “Just to put a horse in a race for the sake of putting a horse in a race because it’s the Preakness, to me is not a wise decision.

“We just want to look and see, one, how the horse is feeling at the time over the next week or two; then, two, just take a look at the field and, three, what are the other options out there?” he added. “We’re nowhere close to making any decision. We’re just taking it day by day. It is nice, though, to be in the position to have a decision to make.”

Apprentice J.G. Torrealba has been aboard for each of Copper Tax’s last two starts, stakes races where he is required to ride without his five-pound weight allowance. Torrealba leads all jockeys at Laurel’s spring meet with 15 wins, three more than runner-up and four-time overall Maryland champion Jevian Toledo and five more than Jaime Rodriguez, who led all Maryland riders in wins and purse earnings last year.

“It’s important to have that chemistry and have that teamwork. [Torrealba] has gone far with the horse in the short time that he’s had to ride him. I’m impressed by him,” Loso said. “I think a lot of it, honestly, is the horse saying, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go. You’re coming with me.’ I think the horse has the lead on that, but the jockey has done very well with the horse and I have nothing but great things to say about him.”

Capuano has now won five stakes at Laurel to start the year, also scoring April 13 with Intrepid Dream in the $100,000 Heavenly Cause and March 16 with Shaft’s Bullet in the $100,000 Harrison Johnson Memorial and Take a Hint in the $75,000 Not For Love. He went 7-for-24 at the calendar year-opening Heritage Meet, ranking fourth with $381,240 in purse earnings, and has gone 3-for-10 to start the spring stand with $183,000 in purses earned, ranking third.

“It’s amazing. We have some really nice horses in the barn that are running well and getting in some pretty nice spots where they’ve got opportunities and most of the time, they’ve been making the best of it,” he said. “Credit to all the help in the barn and everybody that makes it all possible. I’m just along for the ride.”

NOTE: Jockeys Jevian Toledo and J.G. Torrealba were both taken to University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center Sunday afternoon after an accident during the running of the fourth race. Both Toledo and Torrealba were moving their extremities and were conscious. Jackie A, ridden by Toledo, and Bourbon and Ice, ridden by Torrealba, walked off the track and appeared uninjured.