03/23/2006 12:00AM

Happy Surprise steps up for stakes


Happy Surprise, who improved dramatically when given Lasix and stretched out in distance, has the speed and the pedigree to handle his first stakes assignment in Saturday's $85,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park.

A one-mile race, the Private Terms drew a field of 11 3-year-olds and is the first leg of the Magna 5. The Private Terms is unlikely to produce any Kentucky Derby or Preakness candidates, since only two runners in the field are Triple Crown nominees.

A well-beaten fifth in his career debut on Feb. 6, Happy Surprise boosted his Beyer Speed Figure nearly 40 points and dominated 11 maiden special weight rivals when he added Lasix for his second start on March 9. His front-running 11 3/4-length victory was worth an 87 Beyer.

Trained by Gary Capuano, Happy Surprise is a son of Crowd Pleaser, whose 3-year-old season was highlighted by wins in the Virginia Derby, Calder Derby, and Grade 3 Saranac Handicap, all grass races.

Vegas Play, who futilely chased hot horses Sweetnorthernsaint and Barbaro in two of his last three starts, and Sunshine Alpine, returning just seven days after finishing far back of Like Now in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, fit well in this spot.

Vegas Play, part of a Bud Delp-trained entry with Tactical Brush, delivered his best performance when he beat statebreds in the Maryland Juvenile Championship on New Year's Eve. He flashed speed and faded when tried on the turf against the unbeaten Barbaro in last fall's Laurel Futurity and finished willingly, earning an 86 Beyer, when beaten 10 lengths as the runner-up to Sweetnorthernsaint in the Miracle Wood on Feb. 4.

Sunshine Alpine, based in New York with Gary Contessa, ran well when he got a 93 Beyer for his second-place finish in the six-furlong Fred Capossela in February, but never made any kind of a move a month later in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham.

Bettors should be reluctant to toss Sunshine Alpine, however, because Contessa is 8 for 49 with a $2.55 return on investment when he brings back horses in seven days or less at distances ranging between seven furlongs and 1 1/16 miles.

Mike'sgoodandtough impressively won his first two starts, both at Laurel, but regressed when he raced on Lasix for the first time in a second-level allowance at Philadelphia Park. He would have to substantially improve upon his best Beyer of 71 to threaten here.