Photo: Maryland Jockey Club
Runnymede Racing’s multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining, who has exclusively raced in Maryland since last summer, will remain in familiar surroundings but face a new challenge in trying two turns for the first time in Saturday’s $100,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park.
The 30th running of the Private Terms at about 1 1/16 miles is among five stakes worth $450,000 in purses on an 11-race program with a first-race post of 1:10 p.m. It is the second stakes for 3-year-olds this winter at Laurel following the one-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 16, and precedes the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio April 20, a ‘Win and You’re In’ event for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18.
Now based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., Alwaysmining made his first three starts in Kentucky and two more at Laurel before being sold following his maiden triumph here last June. He debuted for trainer Kelly Rubley in the Laurel Futurity, contested at six furlongs over a yielding turf course, before returning to the dirt and reeling off four consecutive wins.
Three of those wins have come in stakes – the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and Heft, both at seven furlongs, to cap Alwaysmining’s 2-year-old season, and the Miracle Wood in his sophomore debut.
“Honestly he’s progressed along very nicely. I wouldn’t say right away that we knew we had this type of horse,” Rubley said. “We didn’t have any place to run him so I put him in the Maryland-bred turf stake on the grass and it wasn’t terribly successful. It wasn’t terrible; it was soft turf so we still didn’t really know. I don’t think you can get a good read off of that, but then he came back in the allowance spot and certainly proved that he’s an impressive horse.
“He’s very natural. I would say everything he does, he does very easily. It’s just a matter of containing it and keeping him happy. He shows up every time,” she added. “I’m extremely happy with him. He came out of his last work in good form and so we’re looking forward to it.”
Each of his last four wins have come in front-running fashion and all under jockey Daniel Centeno, who winters in Florida but will be making the trip back to ride from Post 3 in a field of seven at topweight of 122 pounds, four more than each of his rivals.
“I think Danny does a very nice job of getting him to relax and staying out of his way and let him do his thing, and that’s important,” Rubley said. “We don’t think he necessarily needs the lead. He broke his maiden coming off the pace. He’s just very fast out of the gate and it’s worked to our advantage his last few starts so we’ll see what happens.”
Rubley nominated Alwaysmining to a pair of graded-stakes – Saturday’s Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park and the Sunland Derby (G3) March 24 at Sunland Park – but opted to keep the gelded son of Grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty home for at least one more start.
“We’ve been looking forward to asking the question of two turns for this horse, so we’ll have a better read after Saturday,” Rubley said. “Of course, you can’t help but get excited. Certainly, we all have dreams but we’re taking it step by step and not getting ahead of ourselves.
“[The owners] are having a wonderful time with this horse and I’m grateful to have him in my barn. Most important, they’re having fun,” she added. “He’s just an exciting horse. He’s fun to watch. He’s a very classy horse and takes it all stride, and I think that helps him. He’s a lot of fun to have around, absolutely.”
Rubley also entered The Elkstone Group’s Red Gum in the Private Terms. The gelded son of Grade 1 winner Sky Mesa has won each of his last two starts but would be making his stakes debut. Both his wins came over muddy, sealed tracks at Laurel and, unlike his stablemate, has both a race and win around two turns, coming in an optional claiming allowance Feb. 21.
“It’s a tough time of year for 3-year-olds that have already won their allowance race because there’s not a lot of options,” Rubley said. “He’s won his last two and each race has shown improvement. And, he’s proven at two turns. He won his allowance race going a mile and a sixteenth, so it makes sense to look at this race.”
Jevian Toledo is named to ride Red Gum from Post 6.
Following a trip to Florida for his stakes debut, where he finished seventh in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, West Point Thoroughbreds and Chris Larsen’s Still Dreaming returns to Maryland for trainer Graham Motion.
A half-brother to 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist out of the Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle, Still Dreaming worked twice at Tampa since the Feb. 9 Davis and left for Fair Hill March 10. He made his first two starts at Laurel, including a three-length maiden triumph over Red Gum going one mile Jan. 1 in his 3-year-old debut.
“He came out of the last race good. I was just a bit disappointed with how he ran that day. I worked him at Tampa a couple of times before the race and I thought he worked well over the track, but he seemed to struggle on race day. He’s worked twice since and his last work I thought he went super,” Motion said. “This isn’t going to be an easy spot because Kelly is running her horse back, but I want to give him one more shot to see if he’s the caliber I think he is. We can always go back to an a-other-than after this.”
Still Dreaming’s success at Laurel and his progression since the Davis were enough to convince Motion to try again. The Flatter colt breezed five furlongs in company with an older horse in 1:00.60 March 9 at Tampa, the fastest of 18 horses at the distance.
“He’s a half-brother to a Derby winner so it’s hard not to think about it. Kelly’s horse has won four in a row. I’d hoped she’d go looking for something else,” Motion said. “He’s still relatively inexperienced and he’s a little immature, but I’ve always liked him in the morning. He worked great, and I thought as long as he works good I’m going to try it. He likes Laurel.
“If he’d regressed from the Sam Davis I wouldn’t do it, but he hasn’t so I think he deserves a shot,” he added. “I like the fact that he’s been training in Florida. I think that gives him a little edge.”
Jorge Vargas Jr. has the call on Still Dreaming from outside Post 7.
BB Horses and MCA Racing Stable’s Tybalt has run third to Alwaysmining in two previous meetings, an allowance race last fall and the Miracle Wood, where he got nosed out at the wire for second by Gray Magician. Trained by winter meet leader Claudio Gonzalez, Tybalt finished second in the Tyro and third in the First State Dash last year at 2.
Trainer Hamilton Smith entered the pair of Dixie Drawl and Makes Mo Cents. Skeedattle Associates’ Dixie Drawl was second in his career bow Jan. 10 prior to his 2 ½-length maiden triumph going one mile Feb. 7, both at Laurel. Mens Grille Racing’s Makes Mo Cents won his only career start going seven furlongs over a muddy, sealed track Jan. 19 at Laurel.
Completing the field is Michael and Jeff Fazio’s Joevia, most recently second by a neck in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes Feb. 9 at Aqueduct.