By Dick Jerardi
When post positions were drawn Monday for the 35th Breeders’ Cup, five horses stabled at Parx Racing were among the horses entered for the 14 races this Friday and Saturday.
We knew about the three “Win and You’re In” horses: Imperial Hint, Discreet Lover and Jaywalk. They will be joined at Churchill Downs by Always Sunshine and maybe Order of Law.
Let’s go in race order.
Jaywalk, who is owned by Leonard Green and Chuck Zacney and is trained by John Servis, will start from post position 7 in the Juvenile Fillies. The race will be run late Friday afternoon. The GI Frizette winner has won three straight after finishing second in her first start. The first four finishers in her Aug. 22 stakes win at Delaware Park all came back to win their next starts, making the 6-1 odds for Jaywalk in the Frizette look even better in retrospect.
Like Jaywalk, favored Bellafina, who drew post 10, finished second in her first start and since has won three straight, all stakes, including two Grade Is.
Servis has won some of the biggest races in the sport, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Kentucky Oaks. This would be his first Breeders’ Cup win. He rarely runs in the major races unless he believes his horse can win. Jaywalk absolutely can win.
Order and Law is second on the also eligible list for the Juvenile Turf, the race after the Juvenile Fillies. He will need two horses to scratch if he is going to make the field. Trained by Lou Linder, Jr., and owned by Bran Jam Stable and David Clark, Order and Law won the Laurel Futurity in his only grass try.
Imperial Hint follows in the great tradition of Parx sprinters from four decades ago, Eclipse Award winners My Juliet and Gallant Bob. If he wins Saturday’s Sprint—and he will be favored—Imperial Hint will be the first Parx-based Eclipse Award winning horse since Smarty Jones in 2004.
Imperial Hint drew the 5 post in the nine-horse field. Trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr., and owned by Raymond Mamone, the little horse is simply the fastest horse in the country. He has won seven of his last eight 6-furlong races, with the only loss being in last year’s Sprint when he finished second to Roy H.
Roy H is back to try to defend his title and he drew the 9 post. His stablemate, the fast but overmatched Distinctive B, drew post 7 which could make Imperial Hint’s jockey Javier Castellano have to make some early decisions. One thing is certain. If Imperial Hint gets a free run during the race, some horse is going to have to run an incredible race to beat him.
Always Sunshine, the tough horse from Ned Allard’s barn, will start right next to Imperial Hint in post 6. Frankie Pennington, going for an unprecedented fifth straight Parx riding title, will be riding the horse for the 14th time in the horse’s 25th start. Always Sunshine has won three stakes and $517,650 for owner Stonehedge LLC.
Finally, there is the $10,000 horse that will be making his 45th and likely final start in the $6 million Classic, the last race on Saturday. Discreet Lover, owned and trained by Uriah St. Lewis, will be taking on a field of horses that has won a combined $41 million in epic races in the United States and around the world.
Discreet Lover won his way into the race with one of the great moments in Parx Racing history when he came from way back to get up in the final jump to win the Sept. 29 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He ran the mile and a quarter in 1:59.99, shading the magic two minutes with nothing to spare.
Discreet Lover’s career began July 12, 2015 at Parx when he finished fourth in a maiden race at 56-1. Since then, he has seven wins, seven seconds and seven thirds, with earnings of $1,374,685. He was 45-1 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He is listed at 20-1 in the morning line for the Classic and will almost certainly go off at longer odds than that.
Discreet Lover drew post 13 in the 14-horse field with morning-line favorite Accelerate just to his outside and the last two Pennsylvania Derby winners, McKinzie and West Coast, right next to each other in posts 6 and 7.
None of what Discreet Lover has done should be possible, but somehow it all happened. Whatever the Classic result, the $10,000 horse has beaten all the odds in a sport where it is hard to win any race, much less the races where everybody is paying attention. Everybody who loves the sport will be paying very close attention Friday and Saturday.
Keith Jones highlights races 3 and 8 today as the rain and clouds clear out. Listen in to hear Keith’s picks!
By Dick Jerardi
It’s rare in our “look-at-me” world that hype is exceeded by performance. Maximus Mischief’s racing debut on Sept. 29 at Parx Racing was so impressive that he was starting to generate Kentucky Derby talk before he hit the winner’s circle.
The two-year-old colt was no secret when he made the second start of his career on Oct. 20, also at Parx. Running against just two other horses after the remainder of the field scratched, Maximus Mischief took $31,208 of the $35,478 bet in the win pool, the only non-exotic pool available as place and show betting had been cancelled. That translated to odds of 1-20. Bet $20 to win $1.
On a surface that was yielding very slow times, Maximus Mischief, like he did in his first start, was out of the gate in a flash, clearly in front immediately. Running seven furlongs, he went the first quarter in :23.03 seconds, the half in :46.67 and 6 furlongs in 1:11.86.
Maximus Mischief was briefly challenged on the far turn by impressive maiden winner Absentee, but quickly ran away from that colt, opened up a huge lead, was geared down late by jockey Frankie Pennington and cruised under the wire a six-length winner.
Maximus Mischief ran the seven furlongs in 1:25.22, which at first was not that impressive—at least not until the next two races, both at seven furlongs, went five seconds slower, an eternity in horse racing.
By the time the card was over and all the times had been evaluated, Maximus Mischief’s time computed to a Beyer speed figure of 98, the best number by any two-year-old in America so far this year, slightly better than the favorites for the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The performance actually exceeded the hype. Maximus Mischief is the fastest Park-based two-year-old since Smarty Jones in 2003.
“He just seems to keep doing it easier and easier,” Pennington said after he weighed out. “That’s always a great thing to see in a two-year-old for sure.”
Maximus Mischief was purchased for $340,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sale, a few days after the 2018 Preakness. Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett are the owners. Butch Reid is the trainer.
“He’s such a special horse, there’s no telling where he could be,” Pennington said. “He’s got so much talent. I thank the owners and Butch Reid for doing such a great job with the horse and letting me be aboard him.”
Pennington showed Maximus Mischief the whip, but had no need to use it.
“Every time, I kind of waved it at him, he’d just pick it up, just kept going,” Pennington said. “He galloped out with his ears straight up, like what’s next?”
The plan now is to try to find a distance race sometime in the next five or six weeks and then get the colt ready for a trip to Florida where he will be geared up at Gulfstream Park for some Derby preps.
Reid’s biggest concern was the paddock and pre race. Maximus Mischief is still learning about that part of it. Running fast is not an issue.
“Once we went to put the tack on him, he was fine,” Reid said. “He stood there perfectly still.”
After the race, Maximus Mischief was tired for the first time, but had a right to be, going from 5 1/2 furlongs to 7 furlongs in just three weeks. But, Reid said, he recovered quickly. Now, the trainer and owners will plot out the next step.
“It was quite impressive, exactly what we needed to see, second race out,” Zacney said.
In a perfect world, the colt’s next race would be in a one-turn mile. That race may not be easy to find, but there will be a race and a place that make sense.
“We’ll see what happens next,” Zacney said.
Yes, we will. It will be hard to wait, but if the first two races are a prelude to coming attractions, the wait will be worth any opportunity to see Maximus Mischief run.