OZONE PARK, N.Y. — Cash is King Stable and LC Racing's Maximus Mischief handled the step up to stakes company and stretch out in distance in impressive fashion, battling for the lead while still holding plenty in reserve to outkick post-time favorite Network Effect in the stretch to win the 105th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for juveniles as part of the Cigar Mile Day card on Dec. 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Remsen, the first of five races at the Big A that are part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby Series," saw Maximus Mischief earn 10 qualifying points for the Run for the Roses on May 4 at Churchill Downs and improved to 3-for-3 to start his career for trainer Robert Reid, Jr.
Breaking sharp under jockey Frankie Pennington, Maximus Mischief, the 7-5 second choice, dueled Gladiator King for the early speed, with the opening quarter-mile going in 25.12 seconds on the main track labeled fast.
Maximus Mischief gained the edge from the outside over Gladiator King and fended off Tax from his outside in posting a half-mile mark of 50.67. With Tax giving heavy pursuit coming out of the final turn, Maximus Mischief responded to Pennington's left-handed encouragement, opening up his lead before hitting the wire in a final time of 1:51.34 for 1 1/8 miles to complete a 2 1/4-length win.
The Into Mischief colt returned $4.80 on a $2 win wager.
"Running short he was always so sharp and keen, but Butch Reid did an awesome job getting him ready for this race," Pennington said. "He broke well. Going into the first turn he relaxed right back to me and put his ears up and I knew he was going to be good today.
"He's the kind of horse that will do it easy by himself, but as soon as he feels the pressure, he becomes an even better horse. When he feels that fight coming, that's what he likes."
Maximus Mischief, purchased for $340,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training, has already amassed $192,100 in earnings since winning his debut on Sept. 29 at Parx by 8 3/4-lengths at 5 ½ furlongs. Stretching out to seven furlongs, he defeated allowance company by six lengths over the same track on Oct. 20 before stepping up in class in NYRA's last graded stakes for juveniles on the calendar.
"He came through in fine colors as far as I'm concerned," said Reid, who won his first graded stakes since Poseidon's Warrior in the 2012 Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. "I was really concerned that it was a deep racetrack at Aqueduct. Parx is pretty deep, and maybe that's helped him a little bit. They've been running slow times down here. I watched the beginning of the card and I was hoping it was a little faster than that, but to go from seven-eighths to a mile and an eighth, especially the way he did it, is a pretty good accomplishment.
"He runs the turns really well and he swaps leads really good so that's generally where he gets the drop on them. The first thing Frank said when he came off the horse was that when he went into the first turn, [Maximus Mischief] pricked his ears and settled down — and he hadn't had too many horses around him early in his career — that he wasn't worried about the horses inside or outside of him, so that's a really good sign."
Klaravich Stables' Network Effect, the field's lone graded stakes veteran coming off a second-place effort in the Grade 3 Nashua on Nov. 4 at the Big A for trainer Chad Brown, was second by a half-length, earning four qualifying points.
"He ran good. Unfortunately, I think the pace was too slow for him today. That's just the way the race developed," said Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for all three of Network Effect's career starts.
"I'm not disappointed with my horse," he added. "I'm really satisfied with the way he did it, and I think he's a horse that has so much talent. He's getting confident with himself and that's the third time he's run, and I like the way he finished today. I think he's looking for a little more distance."
Tax, also making his first stakes appearance in just his third start, garnered two qualifying points for his third-place effort for trainer Danny Gargan. Fourth-place finisher Bourbon War, a Mark Hennig trainee, netted one point.
Jungle Warrior, Gladiator King and Chinomado completed the order of finish.
Since 2013, the Remsen has been part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby," offering qualifying points to the Run for the Roses to the top-four finishers of the 1 1/8-mile contest at Aqueduct that offers 10 points to the winner, four for the runner up, two for third-place and one point for fourth.
As New York's last Kentucky Derby prep race for juveniles, and one of the last in the country — only the Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 8 and the Springboard Mile at Remington Park on Dec. 16 come later in the calendar in North America — the Remsen, which traces its history to 1904 and the defunct Jamaica Racetrack, has helped propel winners to graded stakes success, and in some cases glory in the Classics, in their 3-year-old campaigns.
"The first thing is that it's a graded stakes in New York, which is so important to any trainer and for any horse's resume," said Jonathan Thomas, who saddled last year's Remsen winner Catholic Boy. "Also, it ignites that flame for the Triple Crown and lets you dream a little bit about those races. Last year, we got some notoriety and could be dreaming big about the first Saturday in May, and the Remsen was the reason for it."
Catholic Boy did not end up entering in the "Run for the Roses" at Churchill Downs, but notched three consecutive graded stakes wins in 2018, including a four-length victory in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on Aug. 25 at Saratoga Race Course that followed a win by a head in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby in July and a victory by a neck in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge in June that was also on Belmont's Big Sandy.
Last year's Remsen was notable for marking Catholic Boy's main track debut following his impressive start on turf that resulted in a one-length win in the Grade 3 With Anticipation and a close fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar one month before the Remsen. Since his move to dirt, initiated by his 4 ¾-length win over Avery Island.
"We knew he was going to like the distance the Remsen just offered up an opportunity to see if we had a horse we could have confidence in on dirt," Thomas said. "After winning the Travers, it’s easy to look back on the Remsen and see what a confidence boost it was to keep trying him on the dirt. It was a great platform to set up the tone of his 3-year-old year."
Between 1959-94, seven Remsen winners also earned a trip to the winner's circle in a Triple Crown Classic [Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes], including Hall of Famers Northern Dancer (1963) and Damascus (1966) as well as Carry Back, Go For Gin, Pine Bluff, Pleasant Colony and most recently Thunder Gulch, who won the 1995 Derby.
"The Remsen is also interesting the way it's situated on the calendar because you're getting the tried-and-true 2-year-olds who have good races under their belts and you get some who have just broke their maiden, so there's a mix of 2-year-olds who are experienced and just starting to get on the radar colliding," Thomas said.
Since Thunder Gulch, the closest a Remsen winner has come to a Classic win was Bluegrass Cat, who Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez piloted to a second-place finish behind Barbaro in the 2006 Derby. That marked the second of four Remsen winners for Velazquez, who is tied with fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Maple for the most Remsen wins all-time.
"It sets the tone for them going into the 3-year-old year and you hope they can perform and keep it going," said Velazquez, who also guided Saarland (2001), To Honor and Serve (2010) and Mo Town (2016) to Remsen wins. "You just hope it can lead to something good in the future They are young horses but you try to get them to do the best they can. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't."
Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey's four Remsen wins is the most by a trainer, with each victory coming in a different decade, starting with Fast Play in 1988 and continuing with Coronado's Quest in 1997, Saarland and Honor Code in 2013.
"I've always liked the Remsen even when I first came to New York," McGaughey said. "It's a two-turn race and a mile and an eighth and this time of year, if you run good, you can get a lot of things behind you: one is the distance and one is the two turns. It gives you [momentum] going into the winter."
From the last 12 Remsen winners, nine went on to win at least one additional graded stakes in their careers, with seven earning a return trip to the winner's circle in a Grade 1. While Catholic Boy went from turf success to dirt, Court Vision, the 2007 Remsen winner, went the other way in his career, becoming a stalwart on the turf after a 13th-place finish in the 2008 Derby. The son of Gulch won that year's Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, the 2009 Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile and the 2010 Woodbine Mile before ending his career on a high note with his victory by a nose in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Mile.
The Remsen is also the first of five Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers contested at Aqueduct, which also includes the Jerome on New Year's Day, the Withers on Feb. 2, the Gotham on March 9 [awarding 50 points to the winner] and the Wood Memorial on April 6, where the winner will earn 100 qualifying points.
"The historical significance of it and the horses who have won it really added to the allure of it," said Thomas, who served as an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher before going out on his own. "Also, being in New York, which has been the most important jurisdiction in my career with the time I spent there with Todd, it means a lot for those reasons, because it's been my second home up there."
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