Your best bet for expert analysis and betting news

Coffeewithchris and Prince of Jericho Battle Again in Concern

Concern at Laurel Park
The $100,000 Concern is one of three stakes on the Laurel Park card on July 1. (Photo credit Maryland Jockey Club).

Stakes winners Coffeewithchris and Prince of Jericho, who battled each other in stakes races throughout the winter and spring, will meet up again for the first time since mid-April in the $100,000 Concern Saturday, July 1 at Laurel Park.

The seventh running of the seven-furlong Concern for 3-year-olds, honoring the first Maryland-bred winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), headlines an Independence Day weekend program that includes the $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up and $75,000 Jameela for Maryland-bred fillies and mares 3 and older, both scheduled for six furlongs on the grass.

Post time for the first of 10 races is 12:25 p.m.

The Concern, Laurel Dash and Jameela are the first of 11 stakes worth $1.075 million in purses during the month of July at Laurel, where the 33-day summer meet began June 9 and runs through August 20.

Watch and wager on Laurel Park at PlayUp Racebook. New players can earn up to a $250 first deposit bonus!

Both Coffeewithchris and Prince of Jericho last raced on Preakness Day, May 20, at historic Pimlico Race Course. Coffeewithchris, owned by trainer John Salzman Jr., Fred Wasserloos and Anthony Geruso, was seventh in the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, while Michael Dubb and Morris Bailey’s Prince of Jericho ran second in the Chick Lang (G3) for sophomore sprinters.

It will be the fifth meeting between the two horses. Prince of Jericho was second to Coffeewithchris in the seven-furlong Heft last December and one-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 18; was sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio, a neck behind Coffeewithchris; and beat Coffeewithchris by four lengths in the Jan. 21 Spectacular Bid, also sprinting seven furlongs.

Coffeewithchris Wins Miracle Wood

“These two have been banging heads sort of all spring. It’s good. They’re two good Maryland horses, so they should be running against each other,” Prince of Jericho’s trainer Brittany Russell said. “Honestly, it’s good to see ‘Chris’ back from the Preakness. We’ve become quite good friends with the Salzmans. I want to win the race, of course, but if you lose to those guys, it’s OK.”

Salzman said Coffeewithchris emerged from the Preakness, his graded debut, with some scrapes but no issues. He has worked three times since the race with back-to-back bullets in 48 seconds for four furlongs June 17, fastest of 49 horses, and 35 seconds for three-eighths June 24.

“My horse never cuts himself up. He shows up every time. He never got hold of that racetrack [at Pimlico] at all. He ran the worst number of his life. I said to myself, ‘Why does he wait until I put him on national TV to do that?’” Salzman said. “The track was very deep. It’s the only thing I could figure.”

Coffeewithchris, who does his best running on or near the front, pressed a moderate early pace of 23.95 and 48.92 seconds in the Preakness set by eventual winner National Treasure. Coffeewithchris was still within a length of the lead after six furlongs went in 1:13.49 before gradually dropping back.

The Preakness eve scratch of Lexington (G3) winner First Mission left the field at seven, its smallest since 1986, one that included Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage.

“When that race came up and was there like it was, I said there was no better chance in the world to win the Preakness than it is today,” Salzman said. “It was one of the most wide-open with only one horse out of the Derby, and he sort of got hurt maybe he didn’t show up as 100 percent. The other speed horse of Brad Cox’s scratched. I couldn’t have written it up any better to give myself a chance to run a big race in the Preakness.

“I just shook my head and said I guess I didn’t belong. But when they went 24 and 48 [seconds], my horse can do that. Maybe he makes a big move at the quarter pole and opens up or gets head and head for the lead, maybe he gets tired and can’t go a mile and three-sixteenths,” he added. “But he doesn’t run like that to the three-eighths pole and just fold up. That’s just not him. But he cut himself all up behind because he wasn’t getting hold of the racetrack, and I guess it was hurting him or scaring him because he just said, ‘Hey, I ain’t gonna do it today.’”

Jaime Rodriguez returns to ride Coffeewithchris from Post 4.

“The horse handled it all well. He handled the cameras and the crowds, and he trained OK. I was as happy as I guess could be going into it. It just didn’t quite work out for me that day,” Salzman said. “He’s won going seven-eighths and he won going a mile. To me I think I’m going back to where he probably belongs in distance. Every time I kept saying, ‘Well, I don’t think he’ll go further,’ but he just kept giving me that effort that he would.”

Following the Miracle Wood, the connections opted to wait for the Tesio where Prince of Jericho wound up beaten less than three lengths in his first try around two turns. He cut back in the Chick Lang to six furlongs, a distance where he had won his previous two tries by 17 combined lengths, and rallied under jockey Sheldon Russell to get within two lengths of winner Ryvit and be four lengths clear of Frosted Departure in third.

“We went in there and he ran with some good horses that day. There were some unfortunate circumstances in that race and Sheldon came back and said that, honestly, he had to sit on him longer than he wanted to,” Brittany Russell said. “I don’t know that he wins, it’s hard to say, but we were really proud of his effort. Regardless of where he ended up, we were super proud.”

Russell Rides for Wife

Russell will be back aboard Prince of Jericho for his wife, Maryland’s leading trainer, from outermost Post 5.

“He ran really good last time. He’s good. He’s been really consistent,” she said. “Every time we put him in, he shows up and runs his race. We’re happy to kind of get him back going seven-eighths at home, and hopefully this is what he really wants.”

Lynch Racing and Nick Sanna Stables’ Recruiter is entered to make his return to Laurel for the first time since winning a 5 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance and six-furlong James F. Lewis III in successive starts last fall, his only previous tries over the surface. The Florida-bred has won two of four starts this year including the Parx Juvenile Jan. 3, and exits a fourth in the Penn Mile (G2) June 2 in his turf debut.

Tiz No Clown will be making his fifth stakes appearance, all at Laurel, for owner-trainer William Earl Atkins. Fifth in the Lewis and Spectacular Bid, he ran fourth behind Maryland’s 2-year-old champion and Prince of Jericho’s stablemate, Post Time, in the Maryland Juvenile and sixth in the Maryland Million Nursery. Tiz No Clown has faced older horses in his past two starts, finishing third last out in a six-furlong starter optional claimer June 2 at Delaware Park.

Also coming out of the Chick Lang is A A C Racing Inc.’s Bristol Channel, who finished sixth. Owned and trained by Andrea Covello, the English Channel colt returned to be third in a 6 ½ furlong optional claiming allowance against older horses June 9 at Charles Town, where each of his two wins have come from eight starts.

Concern, trained by the late Dickie Small, won seven of 30 career starts and more than $3 million in purse earnings from 1993-95. His 1994 season included wins in the Breeders’ Cup and Arkansas Derby (G2), seconds in the Travers (G1), Super Derby (G1) and Ohio Derby (G2) and thirds in the Preakness (G1), Haskell (G1), Molson Export Million (G2) and Round Table (G3).