maximus mischief performance exceeds hype

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.

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