By Dick Jerardi
The darkness had barely lifted Monday morning when Maximus Mischief appeared on the track a bit after 7 a.m. Trainer Butch Reid and wife Ginny were on the Parx apron along with the two-year-old sensation’s owners Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett.
This was going to be Maximus Mischief’s final workout before a van ride on Saturday to Aqueduct for the Remsen Stakes. His first two races, Sept. 29 and Oct. 20, both at Parx, had been as easy as they were impressive, winning by a combined 14 3/4 lengths and getting Beyer figures of 94 and then 98, serious numbers for a two-year-old at Parx or, really, anywhere.
With Parx champion jockey Frankie Pennington up, this was going to be an easy half mile, with the hard work, six furlongs in 1:12 on Nov. 18 and five furlongs in :59 on Nov. 12, behind him. Still, it was a sight when the big colt came rolling off the far turn, changed leads perfectly again, cruised through the stretch and galloped out strongly around the first turn.
“He went awesome,” Pennington said as he brought the horse back in front of the grandstand on the way to his home in Barn 4.
Maximus Mischief had gone the half mile in :47.4, but the time was largely irrelevant. Everybody knows how fast this horse is. It is now a question of how far he can run fast. The Remsen is at a mile and an eighth and there will be serious competition.
“He’s maturing,” Butch Reid said. “The big part of the race Saturday is going to be how he handles the ship up there and how he acts in new surroundings, but it’s stuff that he has to experience. There’s got to be a first time for everything.”
There won’t be many horses in the Remsen, but there will be quality.
Network Effect, who broke his maiden at Saratoga, was second in the Nov. 4 Nashua Stakes for dominant New York trainer Chad Brown.
Each of the two races Maximus Mischief has run is faster by the numbers than anything the other two colts have gotten to this point. And Maximus Mischief will have the additional edge of being faster early in the race than the other colt. Still, there are many unknowns.
Zacney is no stranger to top two-year-old colts, but it’s been awhile since Afleet Alex’s great two-year-old season in 2004.
“It’s pretty cool,” Zacney said. “It’s been since 2004 and 2005 with Alex. It’s been a little dry spell between, but to come back and have a nice horse like this and have a great ownership together makes it that much better.”
Bennett is beyond thrilled to be part of the team.
“Everybody’s fired up,” he said.
Bennett had had decent horses, but “not even close to this. It’s a different level. Met Butch a few years ago and things got better. Met Chuck and things got really good so we’re having a lot of fun.”
Maximus Mischief is the kind of horse that gives everybody around him big dreams. When asked if he’s ever had a two-year-old switch leads so effortlessly, with barely a wasted motion, Reid quickly said: “none, certainly none his size I can tell you that much. He does flying lead changes like no horse I’ve ever seen, very fluid, got a great way of going.”
Even in his daily gallops, Maximus Mischief wants to beat any horses near him.
“He’s got that killer instinct,” Reid said.
The Remsen will be the final race this year for the colt. Then, it will be off to Florida to gear up for a three-year-old campaign that everybody around Maximus Mischief hopes will include a trip to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. The colt was 26-1 in the first Kentucky Derby future-book offering that closed Sunday. If he wins the Remsen, those odds will be tumbling down in 2019.