03/20/2008 12:00AM

Apple Special bids to improve


Considering that Apple Special began his career racing against maiden claimers and needed four tries before winning his first race sprinting on turf, he would seem a highly unlikely candidate to be nominated to the Triple Crown.

Yet he's among five Triple Crown-eligible 3-year-olds in a field of 13 entered for Saturday's $80,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park.

The one-mile Private Terms serves as a stepping-stone for the

1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio at Pimlico on April 19 and is the first leg of

this week's $500,000-guaranteed Magna 5.

Based on his win against fellow statebreds going a one-turn mile in the Maryland Juvenile Championship and his second-place finish against open company in the seven-furlong Miracle Wood three weeks ago, Apple Special was made the lukewarm 7-2 morning-line favorite for the Private Terms.

Already, he's something of an overachiever. His sire, Outflanker, was winless in 10 starts during his two-year career. Apple Special is the first foal of the mare Apple Juice, who sold for a modest $12,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2006.

Apple Special, trained by John Robb, does have some good bloodlines on the female side of his pedigree. His dam's sire, Pleasant Tap, was second in the Breeders' Cup Classic and won a pair of Grade 1 stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap, at age 5.

Apple Special's chief competition could come from New York shipper Mint Lane and Cave's Valley, a highly regarded 2-year-old who has yet to regain his good form in two starts this season.

Mint Lane responded to the addition of Lasix to crush maidens going two turns over Aqueduct's inner track in mid-January, but regressed badly in his first start against winners a month later. He shows a strong series of works, including a six-furlong bullet over Belmont's training track, for his first start in five weeks.

Cave's Valley, unbeaten in three starts at 2, showed improved early speed when he raced wearing blinkers for the first time in the Miracle Wood. Oddly, trainer Mike Trombetta has elected to remove the blinkers Saturday.

Malibu Kid threw in a rare clunker in the Miracle Wood, his first start following a layoff. His earlier races, including a second to Apple Special in the Maryland Juvenile Championship, would be good enough to contend here.

Double or Nothing takes a significant class rise from the starter-allowance ranks in New York. The lone time he raced beyond six furlongs, Double or Nothing got used up in a duel and faded in deep stretch.