The Road to the Kentucky Derby is a path of gradual progression, and hype builds as expectations mount with every added furlong.
So while his connections have frankly shared the opinion that Mischevious Alex may be at his best running a one-turn mile, the 50 points the Into Mischief colt earned at that distance March 7 are seeds of temptation that could blossom into a start in the 1 1/4-mile run for the roses.
Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
The lone graded stakes winner in a field of 11 for the $300,000, Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, Mischevious Alex was much the best and proved it with a two-length victory for Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King, along with LC Racing. The win built a three-race winning streak on the heels of a seven-length romp in the Grade 3 Swale Stakes going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park, which marked the John Servis trainee’s season debut after he concluded his juvenile campaign with a 9 3/4-length victory in the Parx Juvenile Stakes at the same distance in November.
“It was a great day for us. He handled the next step up really well and gave us a solid effort today,” said Servis, whose lone Kentucky Derby starter was 2004 winner Smarty Jones. “We’ll see how he comes out of this, and Chuck and the other partners and I will discuss what’s next.
“Ever since we put the blinkers on him [before the Parx Juvenile Stakes], everything that we’ve handed him, he has handled very well.”
Making his first start in New York and sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Mischevious Alex broke well from post-position six under jockey Kendrick Carmouche and was fourth as longshot War Stopper showed the way through a :23.54 quarter. Confidently handled, he moved up to second as the half went in :47.26, shifted in from the four path to the two path to take command through three-quarters in 1:12.50, and repelled the late bid of Untitled to hold safe. The final time was 1:38.80 on a fast track.
“John pretty much told me this horse can do anything,” Carmouche said. “He sits pretty good or can go to the lead. He told me the horse is a rocket out the gate, so the best thing that I can do is to take advantage. He left out of there running, and I didn’t want to panic. I wasn’t in a rush. I thought I had the best horse in the race, so I wasn’t in a hurry. I was pretty confident in my horse and John. He just told me to ride the way I feel and win the race.”
Attachment Rate was another head back in third, followed by Montauk Traffic in fourth. The Gotham awarded qualifying points on a 20-10-5 scale to the runner-up through fourth-place finishers.
As the dust cleared from Saturday’s coast-to-coast stakes races, Mischevious Alex settled at third on the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve leaderboard. He returned $5.50 on a $2 win wager and nearly doubled his career bankroll to $344,230.
The $750,000 Wood Memorial Presented by Resorts World Casino April 4 is up next, where qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale will be on the line.
“We’ll discuss it, but as long as he comes out of it well, I think it’s worth taking a shot,” Servis said.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm out of the winning Speightstown mare White Pants Night, Mischevious Alex was a $140,000 purchase by Zacney from Eisaman Equine’s consignment to the OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Mark Casse trainee Untitled, who was fourth in the Swale before running second against optional claimers last out at Tampa Bay Downs, earned black type for the first time.
“I thought he ran very well,” said Untitled’s jockey, Junior Alvarado. “We were a little bit wide, but we drew the 10 post, so we didn’t have a lot of choices. He ran a great race. When I asked him, he gave me what he had, and he ran on to the wire. He held on pretty well for running three times in a month.
“If they want to run in the Wood Memorial, it will give him a chance to get strong again,” Alvarado added. “The way he ran today, he should have no problem with two turns. He’s a kind horse. He will do whatever you want.”