Maximus Mischief Rolls in Remsen, Positive Spirit Dominates Demoiselle

Maximus Mischief pulled away in the stretch to win the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes on Dec. 1 at Aqueduct for his third win in as many starts. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Alex Zacney acted very much like the teenager he is by donning a gladiator’s helmet after undefeated Maximus Mischief won the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen Stakes on Saturday at Aqueduct.

If Zacney has his way, he will make an unprecedented entrance into the Churchill Downs winner’s circle by clambering into the enclosure in full body armor after a Kentucky Derby triumph.

“We’re thinking about adding a piece of armor after each win,” said Zacney, 19, after Maximus Mischief was a driving 2 ¼-length victor over favored Network Effect.

Alex’s father, Chuck, well known as managing partner of Cash Is King Stable, is very likely to give his son the benefit of the doubt on many issues these days. The youngster’s urging contributed to his decision to pay $340,000 for the bay son of Into Mischief as a 2-year-old in training.

Maximus Mischief after Remsen win. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Alex said he was drawn to the Kentucky-bred by his sire, his sturdy athletic appearance and – get this – his unruly behavior.

“He was really fighting the handlers, showing a lot of testosterone,” the youngster said. “They couldn’t let him near the fillies because he’d go after them.”

His father is no stranger to good horses. He enjoyed a wonderful ride when Afleet Alex – named after his aforementioned son – swept the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2005. He has a financial stake in Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ Jaywalk, who should take him to the Longines Kentucky Oaks if she remains sound. And Maximus Mischief is showing early signs that he can be Derby-bound after extending his record to 3-for-3.

He turned his 5 ½-furlong debut into an impressive display of raw talent when he widened to an 8 ¾-length margin while jockey Frankie Pennington remained virtually motionless on Sept. 29 at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa. Then came an Oct. 20 allowance test at Parx that proved to be no test at all. He again rolled on the front end, eventually opening up by six lengths in a seven-furlong mismatch.

That set the stage for the Remsen, which was sure to be Maximus Mischief’s first real test. How would he react to finally having some serious runners around him? How would he respond to an Aqueduct surface that can be deep and tiring? How would he hold up around two turns for the first time in his promising but very young career?

Trainer Robert “Butch” Reid Jr. felt more at ease as he watched the Remsen unfold. “He wasn’t worried about the horses inside or outside of him, so that’s a really good sign,” Reid said.

Pennington could not have been more pleased.

“Running short, he was always so sharp and keen,” he said. “But Butch Reid did an awesome job getting him ready for this race. 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.”

Pennington, too, is drawn to the horse’s demeanor.

“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,” the rider said. “When he feels that fight coming, that’s what he likes.”

Maximus Mischief handled a demanding surface and the challenging 1 1/8-mile distance with relative ease. He took a lead that he never relinquished through an opening half-mile clocked in 50.67 seconds en route to a final time of 1:51.34.

“We wanted to accomplish a two-turn race as a 2-year-old, and he handled it great,” Reid said. “We’re that much ahead of the curve, I believe.”

Plans call for Maximus Mischief to be shipped to Florida, where he will be given essentially a 30-day vacation before he begins serious training for one of the Derby preps at Gulfstream Park. He earned 10 points for the Remsen victory, according to the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the 20 Derby starters. Jaywalk looms as an even better prospect for the Oaks.

“It’s going to be a whole lot of fun,” the elder Zacney said.

In other major races:

$750,000, Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets: Patternrecognition, a horse that has had difficulty staying sound, finally put it all together for trainer Chad Brown in earning his first Grade 1 victory. He finished three-quarters of a length ahead of True Timber. The son of Adios Charlie had won the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap by one length on Sept. 22 at Belmont Park in his previous start.

“Finally, he got very sound to where I could train him consistently and get him out to that mile distance where his father was very effective,” Brown said. “This horse is a rare horse. He’s got that speed and he can carry it.”

$250,000, Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes: Positive Spirit stamped herself an early Kentucky Oaks contender with an authoritative 10 ½-length triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and jockey Manny Franco. She had broken her maiden at Churchill Downs in her previous start. “I was just the pilot,” Franco said. “She was dragging me the whole way around.”

$250,000, Grade 3 Go For Wand Handicap: Heavily-favored Marley’s Freedom, a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, survived a poor start and a furious duel with Come Dancing to get the job done by a neck for jockey Mike Smith. This was her first try at a mile, leading Smith to handle her accordingly.

“I let her get some air,” Smith said. “Once she did, I felt confident I could really get into her and she was going to hold them off.”

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