To hear trainer Gary Contessa talk, it's obvious he's very optimistic about the near-term future of Combat Diver.
Contessa will saddle the 3-year-old son of Line of David in Saturday's nine-furlong Private Term Stakes at Laurel, and he has a game plan.
"We look at Saturday's race this way," Contessa said, "if he wins, we have eight weeks to get enough points to get into the Derby.
Actually it's six weeks, but who's counting.
Regardless, Contessa says Combat Diver could be that talented. He'll face five in the $100,000 stakes race.
"I'ts a great opportunity to try your 3-year-old this time of year around two turns," he said. "I'd love to see the Derby give points for the Private Terms."
There is some precedent for Contessa's ambition.
Last year, Kid Cruz won his stakes debut in the Private Terms, started in the Preakness Stakes and then went on to win the Tesio Stakes, Dwyer Stakes and Easy Goer Stakes before finishing third in the Jim Dandy and fourth in the Travers.
Magic Weisner, winner of the 2002 Private Terms, finished second in the Preakness and Haskell Stakes and won the Ohio Derby. Oliver's Twist, second in the 1995 Private Terms, also finished second in the Preakness.
Combat Diver was beaten a nose in the Miracle Wood but then finished ninth after a tough trip in the Gotham Stakes.
"He's doing great," said Contessa. "He ran lights out at Laurel last time and should have won. Then we went to the Gotham and he didn't have the best of trips. I think coming back to Laurel will very much be the best to our advantage."
Bill Mott, who saddled Mr Palmer to victory in the 2013 Private Terms, will ship Net Gain from Belmont Park. A son of Include, Net Gain broke his maiden Feb. 22 at Aqueduct at a mile in his fifth career start.
Bodhisattva, trained by Jose Corrales, comes into the Private Terms off a fourth-place finish in the Miracle Wood, but he was beaten only a half-length.
Now We Are Free, Slick William and Bridget's Big Luvy round out the field.
Ghost Bay, who broke his maiden in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity last December, will not run in the Private Terms, said trainer Lawrence Murray.
"We've missed so much time because of the weather that I don't think we'll make this one," Murray said. "It's no one's fault. It's just been a very unusual winter."
Murray said Ghost Bay could run next April 18 in the Federico Tesio or that same day in the Illinois Derby.
"And it still remains to be seen if he's that kind of horse," Murray said. "But so far he acts like he's a nice horse."
By Dick Downey with content from Maryland Jockey Club release