By Dick Jerardi
Grade I wins, Eclipse Awards, runaway races. Parx horses have been on a four-month run of out-of-town stakes success that was unprecedented in the history of the racetrack. It was almost as if the results were preordained.
On paper, it looked like that streak would continue when unbeaten Maximus Mischief, stabled in Barn 4 at Parx during the summer and fall, was set to make his three-year-old debut in the Feb. 2 Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. After all, each of Maximus Mischief’s three Beyer speed figures was better than any figure his eight rivals had earned in 35 combined races.
Maximus Mischief had won his races with ease. Two were against overmatched rivals at Parx. One was in the Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct against a field that included third-place Tax, who would win the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct 45 minutes prior to the Holy Bull, and fourth-place Bourbon War who won a Jan. 18 allowance race at Gulfstream.
It all appeared so perfect; too perfect it turned out.
Maximus Mischief got his usual great position in the Holy Bull, tracking the early leader from a few lengths behind on the run down the backstretch. When jockey Jose Ortiz, who replaced Parx champion rider Frankie Pennington for the race, gave the signal, the assumption was that Max would cruise on by and would quickly move on to the next hurdle on the way to the Kentucky Derby.
Except, Ortiz gave the signal and Max was inching up to the leader, not rolling right by. When Maximus Mischief finally got by Epic Dreamer in the final 100 yards, there were two fresh challengers. Harvey Wallbanger, a 29-1 shot, passed Max on the inside and then, just before the wire, 128-1 Everfast, passed him on the outside. The winner was one length ahead of Everfast who finished a neck in front of Maximus Mischief.
Maximus Mischief had run far from his great two-year-old form and the result left a lot more questions than answers.
“Jose said he had to use him a little more than he thought he would which I agreed with,” trainer Butch Reid said.
Maximus Mischief’s three Gulfstream workouts prior to the race did not go exactly as planned. He switched leads several times in the stretch of the first work. He went fast early and slow late in his second work. His third work had to be postponed for two days because of weather and came five days before the race instead of the planned seven.
So was the Holy Bull an aberration? Or is something else going on? Only time will tell.
The time of the Holy Bull, a very slow 1:43.69 for the mile and a sixteenth, told one story.
Maximus Mischief’s next race will tell the next part of the story.
The original plan was to wait for the March 30 Florida Derby as a final prep for the Kentucky Derby. That could change, with the March 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes now under consideration.
“He was walking sound after the race,” Reid said. “He came back blowing a little harder after the race, but we just got done scoping him and he scoped clean. His airway looks great so…”
In his early races at Parx, Max had been very excitable on the way to paddock and in the paddock. He was perfectly fine, however, prior to the Remsen.
He was not fine before the Holy Bull, as he reverted back to the bad habits of rearing up and sweating profusely.
“He looked unsettled coming into the paddock,” Reid said. “He had a little flank sweat, a little shoulder sweat going to the gate. I’m not sure what it was, but something kind of put him off his game a little bit today. Fortunately, we still have a good, strong, sound horse and we’ll give him a little bit of a mulligan for today and go on about our business… He hasn’t dropped any in my eyes.”
That pre-race nervousness obviously has to be addressed. Unsettled horses rarely run to their true ability.
“Those are things we are going to have to work on in the next few days to see if we can discover what was really on his mind,” Reid said. “Soundness-wise, health-wise, all that kind of stuff, he looks fantastic.”
By Dick Jerardi
Jaywalk’s owners were concerned as the envelope was about to be opened for the Eclipse Award for Champion Juvenile Filly. They need not have worried. Jaywalk dominated her Eclipse Award rivals the same way she dominated her rivals on the track in 2018. She was named Champion Two-Year-Old Filly near the start of the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24, getting 214 first-place votes to runner-up Newspaperofrecord’s 31.
Thus, Jaywalk, co-owned by the D. J. Stable LLC and Cash Is King LLC, became the second Parx-based horse to win an Eclipse Award this century. Not coincidentally, both horses were trained by John Servis, the man who gave the world Smarty Jones in 2003 and 2004.
“It was sweet,” said Servis, who is two-for-two when he appears at the Eclipse Awards. “When they’re opening that envelope, you always second guess. When they called her name, it was great. We started high fiving.”
It was the first Eclipse for the Green family’s D.J. Stable LLC, which has run horses at Parx for 40 years. And it is the second for Cash Is King’s Chuck Zacney, whose Afleet Alex won in 2005 as Champion Three-Year-Old.
“It was surreal,” said Jon Green, who accepted the award at the ceremony. “You think about the horse and what the filly has accomplished, but you also think about the 40 years of being in the business and all the claiming races you went to and all the ups and downs of the business. I think that’s why we appreciate the people so much that we have surrounding us right now. They’re great individuals and really good at what they do, but they’re genuine people and you can trust them. That’s so hard in this business. I think that’s why it made it such an enjoyable night because it was just fun to celebrate with people you enjoy spending time with.”
Jon Green knew the history of the award: that it typically goes to the best dirt horse and especially the filly that won on Breeders’ Cup Day. Well, Newspaperofrecord also dominated on Breeders’ Cup Day, but she has only run on grass. So, history was served again.
Jaywalk finished second in her first start and then won her next four by a combined 20 1/4 lengths. She won the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park by 5 3/4 lengths and returned 26 days later to crush the field in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs by 5 1/2 lengths.
Jaywalk is gearing up for her 2019 campaign at Palm Beach Downs in South Florida. Her likely first start is the March 2 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream, with the Ashland at Keeneland and the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on the agenda.
By Dick Jerardi
It is unfortunately becoming a near-annual and seemingly unavoidable rite of winter at Parx, a 21-day quarantine due to the Equine Herpes Virus, EHV-1.
“We’ve been down this road before with quarantine,” said Dr. Craig Goldblatt, the Veterinary Medical Field Officer (VMFO) at Parx for the Pennsylvania State Racing Commission. “However, the last instances were state-issued quarantines.”
Parx management made the decision on this quarantine after a horse from trainer Ramon Martin’s stable tested positive for the virus.
“There are basically two forms of the virus, a respiratory form and a neurologic form,” Dr. Goldblatt said. “The quarantines we’ve had in the past, it’s a horse that has developed neurologic signs and tested positive for the virus. And then the state gets involved and issues a quarantine. In this particular instance, there was a horse in Barn 27 of Ramon Martin’s that got sick and went to Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in New Jersey and was subsequently diagnosed with EHV-1, but the non-neurologic form, the respiratory form.”
Track management did not want to take any chances that the virus would spread, so the quarantine was put into place. The effect is that, until the quarantine is lifted (likely on Jan. 30 if no other horses test positive for the virus), no horses can leave the Parx barn area and run at another track. Horses that ship in to race have to stay in the barn area until the quarantine ends. The biggest effect is on the horses in Barn 27 which, in addition to Martin’s horses, also include those trained by Penny Pearce and Mario Dominguez. Those horses can’t leave their barn to race or train.
The only horses allowed to leave Parx during the quarantine must receive special permission if they have to go for a medical necessity like a surgical procedure.
“The virus is very strange in the way it behaves,” Dr. Goldblatt said. “Sometimes, the horses with the respiratory (version) can develop neurologic signs. If that were the case, the state would get involved. There wasn’t in this case, but everybody wanted to err on the side of being cautious because when you have horses that are shedding the virus you don’t know. There’s always a possibility that the neurologic form may rear its ugly head.”
The horse with the virus left the stable area Jan. 8, so 21 days gets us to Jan. 30 when the quarantine hopefully will be lifted.
“It’s the race track’s decision,” Dr. Goldblatt said. “If they decided they wanted to extend it or change it in any way, it’s really up to them.”
According to Dr. Goldblatt, the horse with the virus is getting better and, if the horse eventually tests negative for the virus, would be allowed back in the barn area.
During the quarantine, if vets have to treat a horse in Barn 27, they make that their last visit of the day so there is less chance for the virus to spread.
“The virus can be spread by direct contact, but also indirect contact like getting the virus on somebody’s hand and then passing it to another horse,” Dr. Goldblatt said.
So everybody is being ultra-cautions until the all-clear sign is given.